Supporters of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank had an opportunity to learn more about the organization's work to end hunger during a regional fall banquet in Swift Current, Nov. 20.
The event at the Trailview Alliance Church was co-hosted by the provincial coordinators of the Foodgrains Bank in association with the local Grasslands Growing Project, which coordinates two community projects in the Swift Current area.
Representatives from different growing projects in southwest Saskatchewan shared some information about their activities during the meeting. Rick and Jacquie Block, the regional representatives for the Foodgrains Bank in Saskatchewan, made a presentation about the organization’s international efforts.
The Foodgrains Bank funded 117 projects in 34 countries at a total cost of $37.6 million during the period April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018.
There are currently 27 growing projects in Saskatchewan, including some new projects through a partnership with Viterra to make land available around three grain terminals in the province. In 2017 the growing projects and other fundraising efforts in Saskatchewan raised $2.5 million for the Foodgrains Bank.
A recent analysis by Charity Intelligence Canada listed the Foodgrains Bank as one of the top 10 impact charities for 2018. The 10 charities on the list are all delivering returns of six times on the dollar while the average return is one to two times on the dollar.
According to Rick Block, the regional fall banquet was a great opportunity to bring together those who support the work of the Foodgrains Bank.
“What I really enjoyed here was seeing a really good showing by many people who represent businesses that are involved in supporting growing projects in the southwest,” he said afterwards. “We see people representing businesses, we see people representing churches, we see families who are involved in their own individual farm that often provide just simply a grain donation each year. We see families here that will just provide a general donation perhaps through their church and then lots of families that are involved specifically with the projects, and so it's just a really nice gathering of people from all around the southwest.”
These regional banquets take place annually in Saskatchewan, usually in two locations every fall. The locations will change from year to year. Last year the fall banquets were in Melfort and Moose Jaw. In addition to this year’s fall banquet in Swift Current there are two information luncheons, one in Foam Lake and the other in North Battleford.
“People enjoy connecting with each other from various projects,” he said. “Sometimes they're talking with each other at maybe agricultural fairs, they might see each other in town, say in Swift Current. This is a chance where we get to congregate more people who in some ways share a common vision to help end world hunger and to work together, especially through a lot of these growing projects. It certainly is a good opportunity to provide a bit of an update and then especially through guest speakers it is a way to convey some of the passion and vision of what the Foodgrains Bank envisions.”
The guest speakers at the regional fall banquet in Swift Current were Marion and Randy Ausmus from Leader. Marion is one of two representatives for Canadian Lutheran World Relief on the Foodgrains Bank board of directors.
Randy is the chair of the Southwest Growing Project in the Leader area. The group harvested their 13th crop in 2018 and this growing project has contributed a total of $629,000 to the Foodgrains Bank.
They spoke about their trip to Ethiopia in 2015 to learn more about the work of the Foodgrains Bank in that African country. They previously visited Ethiopia in 2010 on a food study tour.
In 2015 they attended a conservation agriculture conference, which gave them insight into the agricultural challenges faced by farmers in the country. Afterwards they spent another 10 days in Ethiopia to learn more about other Foodgrains Bank projects, including a program to support orphans and vulnerable children. For both of them these visits were life changing experiences.
“Any person who even has a heart for giving, to helping out other people throughout the world, should go, because you learn so much,” Marion told the Prairie Post. “I think we really learned that we're in this together. We have something to offer, but they have a lot to offer us, and we have lot to learn in North America about poverty alleviation and hunger. I think we're quite ignorant to it.”
Randy agreed that a food study tour is unlike any other trip and it will be an experience that one will never forget.
“What sticks out in my mind is the people you meet, the friends you make,” he said. “They're just regular people like we are and we're all equal in God's sight and because we live in a country where there's more food that doesn't really change much. So the people you meet is the most important thing.”
These trips provided them with even more motivation to support the international efforts of the Foodgrains Bank to address hunger and poverty.
“It confirmed in me that they are really doing an incredible job, because if I'm going to donate to something, I want to know that it's getting to where it's supposed to go,” Marion said. “I want to know that it's having an impact and all those questions were answered a hundredfold for me and so it has spurred me on personally to want to give more, to do whatever I can to help, because I can see that they're doing an incredible job and the food really does get there and it makes a huge difference. We think it's almost nothing that we give in Canada, because compared to our economy it isn't really a whole lot, but it has such a huge impact.”
Both were impressed with the orphan and vulnerable children’s project in Ethiopia, which is different from a typical Foodgrains Bank project and is done in partnership with the organization Food for the Hungry.
It's just amazing to see what a difference a little bit of support from Canada can make in the lives of those children who are destitute,” she said. “Without help their lives are going to be nothing, they will not have opportunity for education or to further themselves and so that's where I think my heart was so stolen in that project is that it had such a huge impact in the children’s lives.”
Randy was impressed that graduates from this program, who are now adults and employed, are giving back and even sponsoring children in the program.
“They're going to help to sustain it as well,” he said. “I think that's maybe the vision that some of these kids that came out of poverty and now have a career will drive some of this.”
The Foodgrains Bank is involved in projects to promote conservation agriculture as a way to create long-term food security for people. Ethiopia has a dry climate and the focus of the program is on zero tillage and to get local farmers to use mulch cover to reduce soil evaporation rates.
“It's absolutely essential that people improve their agricultural practices,” he said. “I've seen what it did on my farm when we went to zero till. It just keeps building and building and gets better every year. The benefits will be even more dramatic there because of the climate. They could very quickly double the amount of food they're able to grow.”