Finding solutions for food security: It takes a village

Grant from ECF helps Dickinsfield Amity House support the community with immediate food needs and resources for longer-term food programs

Food security is an ongoing issue, and has been a rising concern due to COVID-19. Some have lost their primary source of income or had their hours drastically reduced, others may be at higher risk and do not feel comfortable going out to buy groceries. For vulnerable populations and low-income families, pre-existing issues of food security have only increased during the pandemic.

Dikinsfield Amity House is a family resource centre that has offered programs and services to individuals and families since 1972. When the pandemic hit, many of the programs offered by Amity House, such as their Community Lunch program, couldn’t continue without significant adjustments that aligned with COVID-19 safety protocols.

Although many programs had to stop, issues of food security didn’t.

“Food security is an issue. Food security … among our clients especially, has always been an issue. And sadly, it doesn’t seem like that is going away,” says Tracy Patience, Executive Director for Dickinsfield Amity House.

Committed to helping their clients, Amity House looked for creative ways to safely support Edmonton’s north-side communities.

In August 2020, Edmonton Community Foundation stepped up to support Amity house with a $9,400 grant through I’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund.

“Families are dealing with so many issues during the pandemic,” Nneka Otogbolu, ECF’s Director of Communications and Equity Strategy, says. “Access to nutritious food shouldn’t be one of them, which is why we decided to help Amity House upgrade its Community Lunch program to meet COVID-19 safety regulations.”

Thanks to the funding, Amity house was able to hire a caterer.

“And we’ve been able to put on one Community Lunch outside, sort of a brown bag pre-packed lunch, and people could come and just have a meal and stay the appropriate physical distance,” Patience says. “I know in our community that made a big difference.”

Patience explains that in addition to the outdoor Community Lunch, Amity House also put funding from ECF toward other programs and services, such as delivering healthy and fresh food baskets.

“The WECAN Food Basket Society is an amazing resource in the city where people can buy food baskets,” explains Patience. “So, we decided that we would take some of our funding and buy some of those food baskets outright. And then we would deliver them to people in the community who needed them. We have focused a lot on seniors in our community.”

Patience adds that while their Collective Kitchens program had to shut down due to the pandemic, Amity House has been using their YouTube channel to help people plan and cook affordable and healthy meals using ingredients from the food baskets.

“But what we really want to do, as well as connect people to resources… [is] help build people’s capacity going forward,” she says.

By connecting clients with resources such as the WECAN Food Basket Society, Patience says Amity House wants to set their clients up with longer-term food programs as opposed to only offering immediate support.

“We want to make sure that we can help as many people as we can,” she adds.

Learn more about ECF’s COVID-19 response.