Cultural Food Hampers for the Community

Africa Centre creates food distribution service to feed 150 families, thanks to a $25,000 grant from Edmonton Community Foundation

Food hamper services have increased significantly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but what makes the Africa Centre’s food distribution service different is its ability to customize.

Food security is an issue many people struggled with when the pandemic hit, and the need for food has only increased.

“Community members came together and started discussions on what the Africa Centre and the African Diaspora communities can do about this unprecedented situation,” says Sharif Haji, Executive Director at the Africa Centre.

The organizations, individuals, academics and community leaders that came together with the Africa Centre asked,

”How can we respond to this?” And after receiving feedback from the community, the answer was simple.

The community’s main concern was access to food, so the Africa Centre wanted to distribute tailored African food to the African community.

The Africa Centre is the largest pan-African organization in western Canada serving as a community hub, providing quality programming and access to services, from a place of cultural awareness and competency, to the families in our diverse community.

“We have had several people who’ve reached out with support,” says Haji. “It brought some fatigue in that I didn’t know how the demand for food would continue increasing.”

The Africa Centre, with the help of a $25,000 grant from Edmonton Community Foundation, was able to start its food distribution program during the summer, and  more than 600 individuals  from 150 families have received groceries, thanks to the Africa Centre’s weekly food hampers.

Each food hamper is tailored to the family or individual receiving it, thanks to a phone helpline the Africa Centre  created. The Africa Centre uses the phone line to ask community members who call what types of food they need and their country of origin.

The ECF grant helped initiate the project, but volunteers from the African Diaspora community undertook a food drive to increase food inventory to keep up with the demand. Corporations, including Loblaws, have also donated food to help the Africa Centre.

“Getting the funding from ECF has been phenomenal,” says Haji. “They’re a very proactive and supportive foundation that helps the Africa Centre with, not only the emergency response but providing services that are needed in our community.”

The Africa Centre hopes that receiving food specific to their culture will brighten the spirits of families who wouldn’t get the same experience at another food bank.

“We’ve had volunteers who’ve shared people’s sentiments, and they have been phenomenal,” says Haji. Some people were like, ‘Wow, I knew it would be food, but I didn’t know I’d get this type of food.’”

Learn more about ECF’s response to COVID-19.