Thursday, 20 March 2014 08:59

Foodgrains Bank celebrates good growing season

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Amanda Thorsteinsson, communications officer with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, was the guest speaker at the Medicine Hat Grow Project spring fundraiser  held March 14 in Medicine Hat. Here she shares some photos from her travels to talks Lebanon and Jordan talking about the work the Foodgrains Bank is doing in countries such as Syria. Amanda Thorsteinsson, communications officer with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, was the guest speaker at the Medicine Hat Grow Project spring fundraiser held March 14 in Medicine Hat. Here she shares some photos from her travels to talks Lebanon and Jordan talking about the work the Foodgrains Bank is doing in countries such as Syria. Photo by Rose Sanchez

It was a full house for the March 14 annual fundraising banquet for the Medicine Hat and District Grow Project benefitting the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.


Held in Medicine Hat, the evening featured a dinner, door prizes, musical entertainment and a guest speaker and was a chance for those attending to hear just how good a growing season 2013 turned out to be.
Bob Dykstra, with the Westfield Grow Project was invited to speak about the success of that project near Bow Island which celebrated its 16th year in 2013. It is located south of 40-Mile Park along Highway 879 on land donated originally by the Ed Luca family.
“The next generation is still allowing that land to be used,” said Dykstra.
A collaboration of many farmers results in a successful seeding, fertilizing, spraying and harvesting of the crops, along with donations and support from the seed suppliers and chemical companies.
“This past year we saw very good crops, good weather and a good growing season,” said Dysktra.
The volunteers were able to harvest about 300,000 pounds of lentils off of 80 acres and another 80 acres produced about 5,000 bushels of spring wheat. The crops are marketed, but still waiting to be moved.
The Medicine Hat Grow Project saw similar success. Located on the northside of Boundary Road south of the city but still in city limits, Charlie Redpath pointed out that point makes it the largest urban grow project for the Foodgrains Bank in Canada.
About $20,000 was raised from the grain grown on about 70 acres, but the project, thanks to generous donations, raised more than $66,000 throughout the year.
He is thankful for all of the businesses and volunteers who make the project such a success, which enjoyed its 14th harvest in 2013.
“Without those people, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do in third-world countries through the Canadian Foodgrains Bank,” he adds.
Andre Visscher, regional co-ordinator for Alberta for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, shared a video presentation which outlined some of the statistics for the 2013 growing season, especially Alberta’s impact to the total donated.
He said over the course of the 14 years, Medicine Hat has had a grow project, almost $500,000 has been raised.
Canada last year, through the Foodgrains Bank had a budget of $43 million for overseas projects.
In 2012-13, Alberta donated a total of $2.85 million to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank broken down into about $1.47 million cash and $1.37 million worth of grain. That was the third highest total in the country behind Ontario ($3.54 million) and Manitoba ($2.9 million). Next in line after Alberta is Saskatchewan at $1.76 million.
The money spent on overseas projects goes toward providing food and nutrition, seed and training programs so individuals can produce their own food.
Amanda Thorsteinsson, the communications officer with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, was the guest speaker for the evening.
Only five months after starting in her position with the Foodgrains Bank, she had the opportunity to travel to Lebanon and Jordan to learn more about the Syrian refugees living there and the work the Foodgrains Bank is doing on the ground.
She told the stories of some of the people she met and showed photos of their living conditions.
“One of the ways (the Canadian Foodgrains Bank) is responding is by directly giving food to people,” she explained.  “It supplements their income with nutritious things. It really does keep them from starving.”
Food is mainly distributed through local churches and by giving food, individuals are able to spend their money on other areas to live such as rent.
“Part of the trip I found difficult, but rewarding for me was being invited into people’s homes,” she said.
A lot of the Syrian refugees were middle class in their country, so were embarrassed by their now-squalor living conditions, yet still gracious and thankful for the food they received and the help from Canadians.
Another way the Foodgrains Bank helps is by giving grocery story vouchers rather than food donations.
“It’s pretty efficient because it saves money on storage for example and it lets people choose the food they want to eat, it supports the local economy and it gives people dignity...”
Despite the poor living conditions Thorsteinsson said she still has hope for a good future for these people.
“What gives me hope is how much inner strength and resilience the people I met have ... against many odds and not knowing when they can go home, (they still have) a wonderful spirit of courage and resilience.”

Read 2556 times Last modified on Thursday, 20 March 2014 11:25
Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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