Apr 27, 2020
NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre (CFC) believes in the power of good food.
As an integral part of NorWest Co-op Community Health – Manitoba’s only healthcare co-operative – the centre is focused on engaging residents of the Inkster neighbourhood in Winnipeg, Manitoba in co-operative health and wellness. They do this through programming designed to achieve three primary goals: access to good food; building skills in the kitchen and garden; and, providing opportunities to build community.
“We’re a food security resource centre” says Lila Knox, Director of NorWest Co-op CFC. “We offer access to food, food skills and education programs and opportunities for community members to engage in a dignified and welcoming space.”
In November 2019, the Gay Lea Foundation approved a $10,000 grant to support NorWest CFC’s Community Lunch Program, an initiative coordinated under the organization’s ‘Access to good food’ pillar. Each week, the program sees three lunches served at Norwest Co-op CFC, which help to meet the immediate needs of low-income families, seniors and newcomers in the community, while also providing opportunity for social connection.
“We believe that a good meal can be the first step in many journeys,” says Knox. “Community Lunch is our biggest and most visible program, and a great introduction for many community members to some of the other supports and resources we provide.”
Between March 31, 2019 and March 31, 2020, with support from the Gay Lea Foundation and other funders, NorWest CFC served more than 12,000 Community Lunches.
The impact of Covid-19
The COVID–19 pandemic in Canada has, not surprisingly, had a dramatic impact on the programming provided by NorWest Co-op Community Health and the NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre in Manitoba.
On March 16, just three days after NorWest Co-op CFC celebrated their 5th anniversary with more than 125 community members, the centre closed its doors to community gatherings and began serving take out meals at the door.
“It has been sad for all of us to have to abandon the core of our model – the notion that food creates community – in order to provide access to food, safely,” says Knox.
The centre is now serving take out meals five times a week and has started a free grocery bag program for the most vulnerable in the community, funded through emergency support from the Winnipeg Foundation and Community Food Centres Canada.
“We continue to see growth in the number of First Nations families at our community meals and even more so in the recent weeks of delivering take out lunches and dinners,” says Knox. “We look forward to opening our doors and welcoming these families back once the COVID-19 situation improves.”
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