Grocery Run: People to People Solutions

The Cause

Our request to the Field Law Community Fund is to sustain the Multicultural Health Broker Cooperative’s (MCHB), Grocery Run, an emergency food distribution program. Grocery Run is in a time of transition, and our funding is coming to an end in December 2021. Funds from the Field Law Community Fund Program would be put towards purchasing fresh fruits, vegetables, and culturally relevant pantry essentials.

Grocery Run provides weekly essential groceries to newcomer, refugee and ethnocultural minority families and seniors experiencing chronic poverty in Edmonton. At the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, Grocery Run served 110 families. Now, we serve 550 families, more than 3200 individuals per week.

Grocery Run hampers include a mixed bag of fresh produce and culturally relevant pantry staples, bread, and every other week, a dozen eggs. When available, we provide additional supplies such as cereal, flour, diapers, winter wear and other essential items. Each week, a group of over 60 dedicated volunteers pack and deliver food hampers across Edmonton.

Grocery Run operates using a combination of food rescue and local food procurement. 50% of our grocery hampers are made up of food donations made possible by our partnership with the Edmonton Food Bank and Leftovers Edmonton Foundation. We have also built strong partnerships with food producers to purchase food at an affordable cost. Each week, we purchase fruits and vegetables from local producers to ensure each family receives an adequate amount of quality and nutritious food.

While the Grocery Run originally operated solely through food donations, new realities intensified by COVID-19 have required MCHB to supplement hampers with food purchased from local farmers and distributors. Field Laws contribution would allow us to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables and other staple food items for our children, families and seniors.

Who Will it Benefit?

In March 2020, Grocery Run served 110 families and seniors; now, we serve 550 (~3200 individuals) per week. Children and youth make up 56% of the total number of individuals accessing the Grocery Run and seniors make up an additional 10%. We serve community members representing over 20 different cultural and linguistic communities including: Afghani, Arabic-speaking, Bhutanese, Chinese, English/French-speaking African, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Filipino, Former Yugoslavian, Iraqi, Karen, Korean, Kurdish, Iraqi, Iranian, Nepalese, Oromo, Romanian, Russian, Spanish-speaking, Somali, South Asian, Sudanese, Turkish and Vietnamese.

Grocery Run supports newcomer populations experiencing the highest degree of poverty. Our survey on housing insecurity found that among communities with high proportions of refugees and temporary foreign workers, nearly half of community members surveyed spent 75-100% of their income on housing leaving little to no financial resources to pay for essential living costs such as food.

We respond directly to the urgent and ever-growing need for food in Edmonton by alleviating transportation, cultural and linguistic barriers to enable secure and consistent access to nutritious and culturally relevant food. This consistency is essential for reducing stress for many parents facing the prospect of not having food to feed their families. Further, we know that many seniors have not been eating or drinking water due to extreme stress and anxiety, which has exacerbated existing health conditions and triggered new health concerns. The social connection and food support provided by the Grocery Run will reduce at least a portion of this anxiety triggered by food precarity.

As a result of our close relationships to the communities that we work with we feel the growing urgency and intense income-related precarity and uncertainty. Now, over one year since the pandemic began, we still see that opportunities for employment are extremely limited, particularly in low-paying service jobs such as food service, retail and labor, which employ a disproportionate number of newcomers. We support a diverse number of marginalized and vulnerable community members, some of whom are not eligible for COVID related income support and do not have other financial support to fall back on. Further, much of the organizational funding is short term, yet COVID-19 will result in long term socio-economic impacts that will ultimately magnify existing social inequities.