Maybe it’s the sparkling snow on the ground, the bright lights in the streets, or just a few too many glasses of eggnog, but come December, everyone seems to be in the Christmas spirit.
And a big part of the Christmas spirit — and something Albertans are known for — is giving back. Here are some local food charities to get involved with this holiday season!
Operating in Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Millarville, Soup Sisters bring community members together to support women, children and youth in crisis through soup.
“Most people would agree soup is the universal comfort food,” says Sharon Hapton, Soup Sisters founder and CEO. “What’s better on a cold, winter day to fill your tummy and warm you up?”
New this year, the Soup Sisters bowls we’ve come to grow and love can be purchased at select 7-Eleven stores in Calgary. Whether you buy Chicken Noodle or Mushroom, Bean and Barley, 100 per cent of the proceeds go back to charity.
“We’re increasing our giving capacity by having it produced and sold in stores,” Hapton explains. “When you buy it, you’re getting delicious soup and supporting emergency shelters across the country at the same time.”
It was just a year ago Mealshare started their Road to One Million campaign, and this November they celebrated reaching their million-meal goal.
With participating restaurants in Calgary and Edmonton, the Mealshare program helps feed the hungry by donating a meal to nonprofits and community organizations like the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre.
Every time a dish is ordered as a Mealshare item at a partner restaurant, a portion of the proceeds go towards putting a meal together for someone in need.
Celebrating 10 years as an official Calgary charity, Food for Peace is a volunteer-run program that serves up freshly cooked vegetarian dishes for people in need.
“A vegetarian diet is much more sustainable and has more variety than a meat-based diet,” Sima Chowdhury from Food for Peace explains. “We’re teaching people that eating vegetables is easy and delicious.”
Cooking monthly meals at the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre and the Ronald McDonald House, Chowdhury said volunteers get to help others and learn some valuable kitchen skills at the same time.
Why not work on your karma and get a new recipe under your belt this Christmas?
Whatever part of the province you live in, you’ve either heard of the food bank or known someone who’s needed it.
But sometimes we forget how important the service they provide is, especially when you hear how many meals and snacks Food Banks Alberta doles out each year (three million in Calgary in 2015 alone!).
Calgary Food Bank representative Shawna Ogston says while it’s important to receive donations all year round, December’s status as a season of giving makes it an especially important month for the food bank.
“When you don’t have enough money to put a holiday meal together, it’s quite stressful,” Ogston explains. “We definitely see an increase in need around the holiday season. People often have limited income, or have to cut the food budget to pay for unexpected expenses.”
One of Alberta’s longest standing food charities, Meals on Wheels has delivered door-to-door meals for more than 50 years.
Stephanie Power, fund development manager for Calgary Meals on Wheels, says the organization has seen a huge increase in the need for food support services over the past few years. Come wintertime, Power says it can be even harder to access affordable and nutritional meals.
“Alberta winters can be harsh, and for those who already struggle with mobility and isolation, it can be that much more difficult,” Power explains. “There are kids going to school without lunches, and unfortunately, we’re seeing more and more of that.”
Meals on Wheel runs five unique programs like the Home Meal Delivery program, which delivers fresh-chilled meals right to your front door. You can help Meals on Wheels by donating or volunteering for one of their local programs in Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Airdrie, Medicine Hat and Spruce Grove.
The city’s only food rescue program, LeftOvers Calgary salvages usable food and shuttles it to people and programs that need it most.
Kitchens in smaller organizations like Alpha House and Inn from the Cold are often in need of fresh food, and LeftOvers Calgary helps stock them with perishable food items rescued from grocery stories, restaurants and bakeries.
“Twenty per cent of Calgary families live below the poverty line and food prices are going up,” says Lourdes Juan, founder and executive director of LeftOvers Calgary. “We can fight that by eliminating food waste. A lot of food is close to expiry and thrown out, even though it’s perfectly good food.”
Run 100 per cent by volunteers, LeftOvers Calgary partners with more than 30 service agencies across the city to serve thousands of low-income Calgarians nutritious foods often missing from their diet.