There’s a new organization in Red Deer seeking to feed the hungry.
The group is called Food for Friends. But instead of distributing hampers, Food for Friends gives clients cards so they can pay for their own groceries at the cash register. They can be spent on non-taxable foods, such as produce, meat, cereals and some dairy products.
Krystal Kromm-Wieler heads the pilot project, which launched in the fall. Food for Friends has helped six families so far, she said.
Kromm is not a stranger to public service in this City. She has served as vice-president of the Downtown Business Association, as a citizen representative on the Community Housing Advisory Board and she co-founded the annual Dessert Gala which benefits the pediatric unit at the hospital. She ran for public office in the last provincial election, as the Alberta Party candidate in Red Deer-North.
She’s modelled Food for Friends in Red Deer after a program of the same name in Woodstock, Ont. One reason why she likes this method for solving food insecurity is that it’s efficient, with low overhead.
Kromm adds that when it comes to food, there’s a place for the more well-off (grocery stores) and those in a more challenging place (food banks). Food for Friends aims to ensure that everybody has access to food in the same manner.
“It helps them maintain their dignity. They have higher self-esteem. They feel better. When people feel better and not so vulnerable to the world, they excel in life,” Kromm said.
“People who are in the program feel empowered because they get to choose the food that they get to eat.”
Food for Friends cards are currently accepted at Sobeys South.
There are several agencies that refer clients to Food for Friends: Canadian Mental Health, Family Services of Central Alberta, Cosmos and a few churches: Crossroads, Sunnybrook United Church and Gaetz United Memorial Church.
The organization recognizes that food insecurity is a symptom of income inequality. Kromm said there’s much advocacy work that needs to be done, at all levels of government, including lobbying for poverty reduction strategies.
As the web site points out, “While the hope that Food for Friends will empower and educate people on better food choices, leading to healthier lifestyles, we are still a reaction to the fact that there are people in our communities who need food.
“The bigger picture is income inequality and what municipal, provincial and federal orders of government are going to do to address this growing concern. Food for Friends will advocate for poverty reduction strategies and stay current with recommendations from different community organizations and the government for increasing access to food.”
Meanwhile, Kromm emphasized the importance of partnering as well in tackling the issue overall.
“We live in one of the most prosperous parts of the world and yet families are going hungry and consuming less nutrient-dense foods just to make ends meet,” she said. “That’s not O.K. What can we do here, how can we work together to build everyone in our community up?”