Each week the church I attend takes an offering for needs in the community or the world at large. Next Sunday is the time for the annual gift for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, a cause that is one of my favourites for four reasons:
- The Canadian Foodgrains Bank is one beacon of the way Christians of various denominations can work together. Fifteen national church bodies, Protestant and Catholic, evangelical and mainline, rural and urban, are demonstrating that partnering for the benefit of the world’s hungry people makes a huge difference.
- The donations made by Canadian citizens are matched by the Canadian government through Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (formerly known as CIDA). Not only that, in the the thirty plus years of its existence the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) has influenced government policy to “untie” the food aid it gives. Up until 2004 aid from the Canadian government came with the stipulation that it had to be purchased from Canadian farmers and then shipped to the area of need. Due to the persuasion of CFGB and its supporters, that policy has been changed so that people facing disasters can be given food grown as local to them as possible. This speeds up the response and supports farmers in the developing world at the same time.
- CFGB is not just about feeding people in a time of famine, war or natural disaster. It also provides training in agricultural techniques that are based on naturally conserving the fertility of the soil, sustainable irrigation systems and better yields from small spaces. When appropriate this organization works with the communities to set up infrastructure programs. In exchange for the labour of the local people, the workers are paid in food rather than currency. This gives dignity to a person in need because the food is not simply a hand-out.
- As a
bank, this organization keeps some of its funds in reserve so that when a
disaster occurs it can respond immediately. It will appeal to donors, but it does not need to wait for
them in order to get started. I
have confidence in the way CFGB delivers aid to hungry people, from Syrian
refugees to subsistence farmers in Nicaragua and beyond.
Woman receiving food aid in Niger in 2012, from CFGB photo gallery