Ten Foodgrains Bank highlights from 2019

Friday, December 20, 2019

Each year hundreds of thousands of Canadians come together to support families in need of food through the Foodgrains Bank. This year was no different. Over the past 12 months, we heard many stories of generosity. Churches, farmers, schools and communities across the country worked together to raise money and support for the cause of ending global hunger.

And as conflict, erratic weather and poverty continue to threaten the ability of families to access enough food, we saw that generous support in action. As 2019 comes to an end, here’s a look back on some Foodgrains Bank highlights of the year:

10. B.C. family cycles across Canada to raise money for ending hunger


Nathan, Caleb, Raquel and Orlando Schmidt hoist their bikes in pride after reaching the Atlantic Ocean, signaling the end of their cross-Canada cycle to help end global hunger. (Photo: Submitted)

Cycling across Canada was more than just a fulfillment of a dream for Orlando Schmidt of Abbotsford, B.C. It was an opportunity to spend time with his family and to raise money and awareness about a cause close to his heart—helping people around the world who are hungry. Orlando cycled with his kids Raquel, Jayden, Nathan and son-in-law Caleb, while his wife Vivian and daughter-in-law Kaitlyn drove alongside them in a motorhome full of equipment and supplies. The family left their home in Abbotsford on June 8 and arrived at their final Nova Scotia destination August 11. They collected pledges along the way, raising over $36,650 for the Foodgrains Bank’s work in ending hunger overseas. Read more here.

9. Growing project movement celebrates 30 years


Canadian farmers and rural communities have been helping end global hunger through growing projects for 30 years. (Photo: Submitted)

This year marked the 30th anniversary of the growing project movement, a movement where Canadian farmers, supporters, and even churches and community groups come together to grow a crop in support of ending global hunger. Growing projects weren’t always part of the Foodgrains Bank; when we started in 1983, grain was donated by individual farmers through grain drives—special days when farmers came together to deliver donated grain at local elevators. Read more here.

8. Foodgrains Bank joins the Humanitarian Coalition

In 2019, the Foodgrains Bank joined the Humanitarian Coalition, a united effort of leading Canadian aid agencies to provide Canadians with a simple and effective way to help people during large-scale humanitarian emergencies. The Humanitarian Coalition works together to reduce unnecessary fundraising competition, increase the impact of humanitarian responses, and reduce administrative costs. The Humanitarian Coalition also partners with the government and engages the participation of media, businesses and individual Canadians.

7. Foodgrains Bank members respond to Cyclone Idai devastation


Katherine Chiphwanya holds a bag of maize flour she received in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai through Foodgrains Bank member Presbyterian World Service & Development, with funding from the Humanitarian Coalition. (Photo: Shaylyn McMahon)

Earlier this year, severe flooding caused by Cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique devastated the lives of millions. Roads, homes, schools and crops were destroyed, leaving survivors in need of basic necessities. With support from generous Canadians, Foodgrains Bank members worked together to respond.

“There were so many needs at the time, and I am grateful for this support that met our food needs,” says Malawian farmer Katherine Chiphwanya, who received support through our member Presbyterian World service & Development. “Now I can focus on working more to rebuild our home and prepare for the next planting season.” Katherine was one of 35,000 people in Malawi supported by the Foodgrains Bank in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai. Read more here.

6. Support for Canadian aid demonstrated to Canadian government


Foodgrains Bank staff and volunteers have met with 69 members of Parliament this year to discuss the importance of Canada’s role in supporting our world’s most vulnerable communities. (Photo: Submitted)

As part of our work to end global hunger, we strive to influence or improve national and international policies that directly relate to the issue of hunger. This year, over 25,000 postcards expressing support for increased Canadian aid were signed by Canadians across the country and sent to the Prime Minister. In addition, Foodgrains Bank representatives met with 69 members of Parliament to discuss the importance of supporting vulnerable communities and farmers in developing countries.

5. Digging deep on soil health: experiences from around the world

“I was surprised to hear Canadian farmers didn’t know a lot about intercropping. In my country, everyone has to intercrop because the land is so small,” says Regina Kamau, who works in Kenya with a local partner of Mennonite Central Committee Canada. (Photo: Shaylyn McMahon)

While farmers around the world have many different experiences, there’s one thing they all have in common: farmers need healthy soil to do their job. This rang true as producers from all walks of life joined together in Carman, Manitoba this past summer. Canadian farmers, agronomists and others interested in soil health and global hunger joined six agronomists from East Africa to share their experiences with farming and learn from each other. Read more about this exciting exchange here.

4. Common Strength documentary: Unleashing the potential of women farmers


“Both here and there, there is a high level of respect for the land,” says Colleen Dyck. “What is different is an intimate and immediate relationship with the land and the weather because it is necessary for food and therefore survival. (Photo: Meagan Silencieux)

Colleen Dyck, a farmer and entrepreneur from Niverville, Manitoba, travelled to western Kenya earlier this year to live and work alongside small-scale farmer Lucy Anyango. Colleen and Lucy’s experiences were documented in a short film called Common Strength, which explores the important role women play to end hunger in their communities. If you’re interested in learning more, click here to watch the trailer and learn how you can host a viewing in your own community.

3. Responding to widespread malnutrition in Venezuela

For the past several years, Venezuelans have been facing severe economic hardship. Hyperinflation, mass unemployment, and deterioration of basic health services has led to more than three million Venezuelans fleeing their country, while another seven million people inside the country, or 25 per cent of the population, need humanitarian assistance.

One of the greatest impacts of the crisis has been a lack of access to nutritious food or a varied diet. There is sufficient food in marketplaces but many struggle to afford it. The Foodgrains Bank is working through its member Development & Peace to support Venezuelans in need. Through Development & Peace’s local partner, families are receiving electronic vouchers they can exchange for products including fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and meats. Read more about this joint response here.

2. Ethiopian government embraces conservation agriculture training


Ethiopian government officials visit with farmers in the country who have implemented conservation agriculture.  (Photo: Submitted)

Through the Scaling-Up Conservation Agriculture in East Africa program, the Foodgrains Bank has been working with members to promote conservation agriculture techniques with farmers in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya. As farmers saw the health of their soils improve and grew more food for their families, the Foodgrains Bank began sharing these results with government officials in each country to promote conservation agriculture more widely. After regular meetings to share about this work, officials in the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture took notice.

“Conservation agriculture is one of the best soil health improving agricultural techniques proved in different parts of our country,” said H.E. Dr. Kaba Urgessa, State Minister for Natural Resources and Food Security in Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture.

As a result, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture has begun training its agricultural extension officers in conservation agriculture techniques, so they can reach more farmers and help improve access to food for more families in the country. Foodgrains Bank staff remain involved in these efforts and we’re seen as valued partners in promoting conservation agriculture in the country.

1. Jim Cornelius’ last full year as executive director


“What moves me the most is knowing we have supported Canadian churches and their partners as they accompany communities around the world facing hunger,” says Jim Cornelius, as he reflects on his 22 years as executive director. (Photo: Canadian Foodgrains Bank)

This year marks the last full year that Jim Cornelius will be executive director of the Foodgrains Bank. After more than 20 years with Jim as executive director, the time has come to start the transition to new leadership for our organization. Jim will hand over responsibility to the new leader next year.

“What moves me the most is knowing we have supported Canadian churches and their partners as they accompany communities around the world facing hunger. I know that millions of families facing crises, such as droughts in Ethiopia, famine conditions in North Korea, displacement in Syria, and hurricanes in Haiti, have received life-saving food. Thousands of children have been treated for severe malnutrition. And many people who have worked to strengthen livelihoods, irrigate crops and rebuild soils are better able to feed themselves,” says Jim. Read more here.