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Grocery Run Corporate Challenge – Communities United

Grocery Run Food Hamper Program Hopes Spirit of the Season Inspires Corporate Challenge Donations

A local, vital food hamper program that helps Edmonton’s most vulnerable is hoping for a healthy boost in financial support from businesses during the holiday season.

The Grocery Run, which is an emergency food distribution program that serves ethnocultural minority families and seniors experiencing chronic poverty, helps about 3,200 individuals each week.

It’s a unique initiative, run by the Multicultural Food Brokers Cooperative in partnership with the Multicultural Family Resource Society. They receive food donations and assistance from other key organizations like Edmonton’s Food Bank, Sunfresh, Leftovers Foundation, and Communities United.  

Grocery Run Volunteers – from The MCHBA

The Grocery Run volunteers organize and pack hampers with healthy items like fruits and vegetables, and culturally appropriate food items.  Food Brokers, who are special relations volunteers, bridge language and cultural barriers and connect directly with families during delivery. Many of the grateful recipients are newcomers, refugees, and single-parent mothers.   Over half of all recipients are children or youth. In all, about  550 families and seniors benefit from this essential program.

“When we look at the families accessing the Grocery Run, we found that the significant number of them were spending about 75% – 100% of their total income on housing, so really these are the community members who experience the highest degree of poverty,”  explains Julia Tran, Food Dignity Program Manager, Multicultural Health Brokers Cooperative.  She adds, “In some cases the Grocery Run hampers may be the only food sources they have to put on the table.”

The innovative program has been running for several years with an annual operating cost of $150,000. But with the strain of COVID-19 and an exceptional 400% increase in users, it’s facing an uncertain future. Government funding and grants that helped them get through the pandemic are about to expire in December.  So the Grocery Run is turning to the community to help raise awareness and funds to be able to continue this important outreach program.

A  Go Fund Me campaign was initiated this past spring, and with recent media coverage coordinated through Communities United and Bangel PR, donations to the Grocery Run have doubled from $25,000 to over $50,000. 

CTV Story: CBC Story Edmonton Journal

“Part of our mandate is to identify assets in the community, and support the great things that are happening in the areas where we work,” explains Matthew Taylor, Program Manager of Communities United.  “And so when we saw what the multicultural health workers were doing with the Grocery Run and looking for help, it resonated that this is something that adds value in the community.”

While the increase in donations is very much appreciated, the amount falls short of the $150,000 goal the Grocery Run organization needs to reach.  And with Christmas around the corner, the timing couldn’t be more crucial. 

People using the program services have been uniquely impacted by COVID as many have lost significant employment, find themselves newly in need of food support, or are experiencing deepening poverty. “We are anticipating that a lot of the food distribution programs that have cropped up over the course of the pandemic will actually be stopping their efforts,” adds Julie.  “We are really trying to make sure that families are still supported within this vacuum that’s going to be created within the Edmonton food system.”

One way they hope to do this is through a fresh, exciting fundraising initiative set to kick off at the end of November.  The Grocery Run Corporate Challenge invites community businesses to come together to give to this worthy cause.  The Medicine Shoppe, for example, has stepped up and created a donation program where each of its pharmacy locations in Edmonton are invited to participate to raise $2,500 that will be matched by the Medicine Shop head office.

There are many different ways for businesses to participate:  Championing Grocery Run as the main charity cause at your workplace; offering a matching donation program; connecting with a network of philanthropic partners, and creating meaningful team volunteer experiences.

The impact of donations is tremendous.  A $250 Donation provides one year of food security and dignity for a family; a $500 donation provides a full year of food to 2 families with children in need of nutritious food and $1,000 will deliver nutritious and culturally appropriate food hampers to 4 families right now, and in the year to come.

Whatever the amount a business is able to donate, it makes a huge difference to those who are on the receiving end of the food hampers.

“The children – they are waiting for you at the door and they come running to you,” says Mana Ali, a longtime Multi-Cultural Food Broker with the program who delivers healthy food packages, “and they grab a loaf of bread or whatever you have.  The brightness in their eyes and the smile on their face; it’s just priceless.”

Mana is also a former government-sponsored, settled refugee immigrant who enjoys sharing her time and kindness with others. “It’s also rewarding when you see families – they teach you a lot and you become more grateful for what you have.  When you see the families struggling at the beginning, they eventually, slowly get out of that.  They come back and can give back to society and it’s very good.”

Matthew and his wife volunteered with the Grocery Run before COVID.  “I saw firsthand where some of the groceries are going in northeast Edmonton and experienced some additional insight to the need,” he reflects. “These are communities that are connected to Communities United.  In our programming, we are very focused on improving household incomes and employment. If you don’t have a steady job, it’s hard to find adequate food.”

You can make a difference and get involved by donating to the Go Fund Me campaign or join the Corporate Challenge.  “This is a tangible way to support those in need right now, “says Matthew.  “We are encouraging the businesses in our networks in our communities to join us to ensure that more families will have continued access to the Grocery Run and healthy food.”

“Especially during the holiday season, one of the things we always look forward to is the celebration over food,” says Julia.  “We also share a strong anchoring to food, how it’s connected to a sense of self and to others.  And in that way, we really hope we can leverage the support of fellow community members.  Because it’s not just about food; it’s about nutrition, well-being, and inclusion.  It’s so much more than just a checkbox approach. So while you are enjoying your meal with your families, we really hope that you can support us too, so that our families can also be well and enjoy something together that they love.”

For more info about the Grocery Run Corporate Challenge & Go Fund Me Campaign, please contact:

The Food Dignity Program Manager, Grocery Run 

Email: groceryrun@mchb.org    Phone: 780-217-5449

Grocery Run Go Fund Me: https://www.gofundme.com/f/groceryrun

Grocery Run Go Fund Me: https://www.gofundme.com/f/groceryrun

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