Local support pulls through for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank

COVID-19 has impacted many stakeholders in the agriculture industry, including the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFB); but they have succeeded in a surprising way.

Musu Taylor-Lewis, director of resources and public engagement at CFB, joined Shaun Haney recently to talk about how the pandemic has affected their efforts and the progress they’ve made fundraising this year.

Back in March, when closures and shutdowns began, the CFB regional representatives called to check in on their local support base. “We were pleasantly surprised that about nine out of ten people we called were feeling okay, and positive,” says Taylor-Lewis.

The first impact felt by the CFB was that events had to be canceled or postponed this spring, which later were held on digital platforms. But, the support base still attended, which is perhaps surprising because the majority of CFB supporters are from an older demographic.

In regards to the numerous growing projects, volunteers met online to plan, and because seeding is a solitary activity, these projects went ahead. The fundraising events that help with crop input costs may impact the income from the end crop in the fall, but the support base has rallied and has made extra effort to get those fields seeded this year, says Taylor-Lewis. (story continues below player)

“Income that we would normally get from dinners, auctions, and golf tournaments, for example, didn’t materialize in the way we expected, but those supporters turned around and said, ‘goodness, we know there’s still a need in the world’,” says Taylor-Lewis. The CFB is doing as well as they did this time last year due to their supporters rallying. Technical support is being provided for CFB groups that want to convert their events to a digital platform.

COVID-19 has pushed the global levels of food crisis higher, to the point where some African nations are at risk of a large number of their population being pushed towards the highest level of food crisis. About 350 million people, double the number of people, will be pushed into the highest level of food crisis. This means people will skip meals or sell assets, tools, or livestock they would normally rely on for revenue, to put food on the table. Furthermore, malnutrition will also be on the rise.

When we think of world hunger, our minds normally jump to a place far, far away, but hunger is certainly happening here in Canada too. “For the first time in living memory, one event is affecting the whole world in very similar ways,” says Taylor-Lewis.

The difference in Canada is that we have social safety nets to depend on to prevent long-term crisis. Whereas those in parts of the rest of the world don’t have a program that they can rely on and fall into that long-term crisis. Governments in these countries can’t afford a social safety net or program, so people who depend on their daily wage for putting food on their table, get closer to that level of food crises as each day passes.

“We’re all in the same storm, but not in the same boat,” says Taylor-Lewis.

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