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Groceries Outside the Box: How you can help build Regina Food Bank's New Community Food Hub

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The Regina Food Bank estimates more than 25,000 Regina residents, half of them children, are going hungry. With more people using its services, the food bank is expanding to serve the growing need.

The Regina Food Bank is opening the Community Food Hub in the heart of downtown this summer.

“A new central location allows us to feed more people, but it also reduces barriers [in accessing the food bank]. It’s closer to transit and the clients that we serve,” David Froh, Vice President of the Regina Food Bank said.

The new space will allow it to feed 25 per cent more people during a time of record hunger. It will go beyond being a food bank on Broad Street, and act as a new, safe gathering space for the community with outdoor activities and more.

“We’re rejuvenating a part of downtown, and we’re very proud of that,” Froh said.

Pick-and-Choose

The Regina Food Bank is opening the Community Food Hub in the heart of downtown this summer. (Courtesy: Regina Food Bank)

The new centre is unique, being the first in Canada to think “outside the box” where people get their groceries.

Instead of receiving a pre-decided box or hamper filled with food plucked by food bank staff and volunteers, customers can browse through aisles of food items, just like a grocery store, and choose what is best for them and their family.

“None of us fit into a box. When you get a hamper, you’re telling a client that they should enjoy and eat what you’ve given them. You also forced them to use their limited means to buy the foods they do need,” Froh said, adding the ability to choose groceries is empowering.

Angela Hutton is a principal with Regina Public Schools who has worked in Regina’s North Central Neighbourhood for years. During this time, she helped develop a partnership between the food bank and schools in the district.

“We can take for granted that I choose my menu this week for my family. We take for granted that not everyone can do that when you’re given a box. But instead, look at the choices on the shelf and figure out [a meal],” said Hutton.

Hutton adds picking and choosing what goes into food bank hampers does happen, but through people swapping and trading to meet their needs.

She saw this first hand when food boxes were delivered directly to families at schools during the pandemic.

“We would have families open up their boxes together; one box would have a bunch of carrots, the other had onions, some had more meat than the other. They would all swap or share. You could see that the need was their need for choice,” Hutton said.

Hutton also adds that from an educator standpoint, she knows how picky kids can be in their food choices, another reason a choice model is critical for families.

“We are providing the basics of food that come in a box. They’re pre-packaged, ready to go. But we’re not looking at those differences in kids from different cultures [or] kids that have food allergies. Being able to choose the foods that best meet the needs of your family and kids, their likes and dislikes, is a huge thing for families,” Hutton said.

Community Campaign

The Regina Food Bank is opening the Community Food Hub in the heart of downtown this summer. (Courtesy: Regina Food Bank)

Unlike other community campaigns, this one is entirely funded by the community.

“Everything from little kids piggy banks to some of our corporate partners. Our community is telling us they want to be a part of a legacy that’s not about a building, but that’s part of creating a healthier Regina and changing forever how food banks operate” Froh said.

Co-operators is one of the food bank’s corporate sponsors, and as a financial service co-operative, they are interested in partnerships that ‘serve unmet needs’ in communities around Canada.

“Our partnership with the Regina Food Hub connects back to our purpose, as we are directing our support to nutritional and financial literacy programming for thousands of students who will visit the food hub learning about nutrition and how to manage finances when shopping for food,” Shawna Peddle with Co-operators said.

Peddle adds Regina should be proud to change the way that food banks operate, feeding hope for thousands of children and their families.

The Regina Food Bank says one in four children, and one in eight families are food insecure. Angela Hutton says that a hungry kid can’t learn.

“We know that a kid coming to school with an empty tummy has less energy and less ability to focus. When kids are worried about when their next meal is coming, they’re going to find it difficult to concentrate. If we’re not meeting those basic needs of the kiddos, they find it much more difficult to learn,” she said.

The Regina Food Bank has a goal of raising $5 million to create a healthier community. So far, it’s raised $3.7 million.

“It takes gifts large and small to ensure that no child in our community goes hungry,” David Froh said.

You can you can support the Regina Food Bank’s Community Food Hub by making a donation. 

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