We know food is an important part of our lives, whether it’s preparing our morning meal or packing lunch for our family. For many of us, finding enough nutritious food can also be a struggle. Every day, the Calgary Food Bank receives more than 180 calls to request food hampers. Food is not only nourishing for the body, it also brings together a community and makes it healthy and strong. The Women’s Centre has witnessed this through the food programs we facilitate and participate in, especially the Food Day Program.
Food Day is a free program accessed by about 120 women and their families every month. Our open space encourages women to connect with others in their community, to access other programs and services offered in the Centre like workshops and personal care items program. With an emphasis on breaking down social isolation and providing additional supports for food and nutrition, our Food Day Program serves as a catalyst to building capacity in women’s lives.
Dignity and choice are at the centre of the Food Day Program. Our market-style set up allows a woman to be an advocate for herself by selecting the food she knows is best for herself and her family. Empowering women to choose what foods she and her family will use means less food waste and more flexible program delivery. Our space is unable to accommodate 30 women at once, so we bring them to the Food Room in small groups. Women aren’t numbers; we call them by their names to be welcomed into the space, continuing to maintain dignity and choice throughout the entire process.
Whether it is a friendly conversation or the sharing of resources, stories and peer support, women often take time before or after their “shopping” to connect with others. Women help each other by providing transportation or lending a hand with groceries, building a community of support they look forward seeing to every month.
We also provide a space to recognize the barriers women face in accessing nutritious food. In February, we hosted a discussion and workshop in collaboration with community partners on the topic of food security as part of our Environmental Issues Discussion Series. Over 55 women attended this discussion, which was facilitated by presenters from the Alex Community Food Centre, Rhubarb Collective and the Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Association. Groups worked together to learn about issues women face in relation to food security, sustainability, and sovereignty at both a local and international level.
To date, this year, women have walked through our doors over 688 times to access the Food Day program. Here is what one of our volunteers said about their experience:
“Volunteering for Food Day at the Women’s Centre, for me, is about love and gratitude. Volunteering there teleported me back to the time in my life when I was a struggling single Mom of a little boy. Neither The Women’s Centre nor the Food Bank existed during that time; I had to work two jobs sometimes three to put a well-balanced diet on our table. I was always tired and had very little time for my boy who grew up too fast; a latch key kid. I was always full of worry about how to make it all work out.
I am so grateful that I am now able to contribute to women and their families who need a helping hand. It makes a big difference in their lives; I feel the love coming back to me in every can, box and bag that is packed. The Women’s Centre is such a heart-warming place that I have grown to love. It makes me feel great every Thursday knowing that I made someone’s day a little better. And I have to say all the volunteers are so wonderful, I have made new friends and we have a lot of fun in the process too. My gratitude for the Centre abounds!”