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W.A. Grains President Hopes His Company’s Food Bank Donation Will Inspire Others (PCN Winter 2017) JAN 4 2017 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Pulse Crop News.

An Alberta pulse dealer answered a desperate call from an Edmonton food bank for a donation of pulses with three tonnes of chickpeas, followed by another six tonnes just one year later.

“The food bank contacted us a year ago and we just happened to be cleaning chickpeas,” recalled Chris Chivilo, President and CEO of W.A. Grain and Pulse Solutions. “We donated some because we could. We re-cleaned a bunch of splits and small ones so they would be good for food. We loaded them at our plant in Bowden into one-tonne bags. We just delivered six tonnes again this year from Bashaw because we know that chickpeas are a much-needed staple for people who are new to Canada.”

Chivilo noted that the trucker his company usually contracts for deliveries donated the delivery of the chickpeas.

Chivilo said that the food bank had been so grateful for the donation in 2015 that they called the media, who in turn called him for comment.

“The reason I did the phone interviews was because maybe there are other companies in a similar situation who could donate some food to the food bank,” he said. “I thought maybe it could inspire them.”

He added that he contacted another food bank in a major centre about making a similar donation, but was told that they couldn’t accept it because of the municipality’s food regulations.

Omar Yaqub, President of the Islamic Family Social Services Association (IFSSA), which is partnered with Edmonton’s Food Bank, said the chickpeas donated in late October will see to the food bank’s needs until mid-January. When Chivilo heard that the chickpeas would run out in January, he donated an additional six tonnes.

“The donation is one of the biggest we’ve seen,” Yaqub said. “For a lot of our clientele, chickpeas are one of the best things they can get – it’s a rich source of protein, they know how to cook with it, and it’s very economical. When W.A. Grains donated these chickpeas, it made a big difference for us, for the refugees, for the newcomers and families who have been hit by the downturn. A bag of chickpeas can feed a family for a week so it was a tremendous gift and blessing.”

IFSSA serves a very diverse set of clients, including fourth generation Canadians, Somalis, Syrians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Indians and Moroccans.

The Fall 2015 issue of Pulse Crop News included a story that highlighted IFSSA’s need for pulse donations.

“We had an intern who called farmers throughout the summer and he referenced the article in Pulse Crop News so a farmer would know that this was legitimate and reinforce what we were saying,” Yaqub said.

Yaqub said that Edmonton’s Food Bank has seen an increase in demand and a decrease in donations due to the economy lately, so generous donations of pulses are very much appreciated.

“Our demand has also increased on a monthly basis far beyond anything we’ve ever seen historically,” Yaqub said. “We’re at about 5,200 hampers and last year we were at about 3,500, so there’s been a significant increase. In June or July, we saw a 40 per cent increase, and that increase is still there so it’s hitting our organization very hard.”

Yaqub said that the food bank buys from the least expensive source, but he feels that buying pulses locally at an attractive rate would benefit farmers, the food bank, and the environment.

IFSSA is a registered charity started in 1992 and dedicated to providing essential needs and social services to marginalized and low-income communities in Edmonton, within an Islamic context. IFSSA is an active member of the Edmonton social services community and regularly works with the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, Catholic Social Services, and others. Its youth program, The Green Room, was named one of the 40 Most Innovative Muslim Startups in 2014.

IFSSA’s partnership with Edmonton’s Food Bank has allowed IFSSA to focus financial resources on expenses like meat that is slaughtered in a certain way to meet the needs of clients. It has also allowed IFSSA volunteers to focus their efforts on dealing more with the root causes of people needing the food bank, including unemployment, disabilities, housing insecurity, language barriers, and more.