Len Siemens, one of the founding members of Canadian Foodgrains Bank, passed away on April 25, 2019. He was 93.
Siemens, a retired agronomy professor and former associate dean in the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at the University of Manitoba, played an important role in the establishment of the Foodgrains Bank.
In the mid-1970s he was part of a small group that envisioned the creation of a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Food Bank into which farmers could donate grain for shipment overseas. At the time, there was pressure on MCC to respond to the hunger crisis around the world. The MCC Food Bank was enlarged to include other churches in 1983 and became Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
In these developmental years, Siemens was on the board of directors of MCC and served as secretary.
Siemens acted as a liaison between the businessmen and farmers who dreamt up the MCC Food Bank and MCC leadership in Akron, Ohio.
“His mission was to feed the world,” says John Wieler, who directed the MCC Food Bank at the time. “He was an agriculturalist and academic who brought credibility to what we were discussing to the MCC board.”
“He battled through a lot of problems and was willing to answer the tough questions,” adds Wieler, noting that there was some opposition to Canadian Foodgrains Bank being formed at its very beginning by those who thought that it could overtake MCC itself.
“I’m very thankful he was there during that time. He gave the best of what he had and was a very important contributor.”
“His various contributions were proved by the fact that Canadian Foodgrains Bank worked, it was accepted, and 40 years later, both MCC and Foodgrains Bank are vibrant agencies.”
“It is people like Len Siemens that leave lasting legacies,” says Jim Cornelius, executive director of the Foodgrains Bank. “He envisioned what could be and then helped work through the practical and organizational issues to help make it a reality.”
Today, the Foodgrains Bank is providing over $40 million in annual assistance around the world, providing food where it is needed, and supporting the efforts of households and communities to improve their farming, livelihoods and nutrition. In 2018-19, over 800,000 people were assisted in 36 countries. Since its establishment in 1983, over a billion dollars of assistance has been provided.
–Amanda Thorsteinsson, Communications Coordinator