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Helping to keep Black communities fed during COVID-19

By: Kathryn Dunmore, Canadian Red Cross
 
For some families in Montreal, the African Canadian Development and Prevention Network (ACDPN) is the difference between having a substantial meal or going without. Beyond food, ACDPN provides connection – however, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the group had to adapt how it connects with its communities.

Providing advocacy and support, such as a recent meal delivery program to help with food security during the pandemic, is what ACDPN has been doing since the organization formed in Montreal approximately 15 years ago. It started as a community initiative in 2005 but incorporated into an organization in 2008. The prime initiative of the organization is to provide a connection – or connections – to English-speaking Black communities in five boroughs in the Montreal area that may not be connected to traditional community support structures in their neighbourhoods – which makes them particularly vulnerable in a crisis such as a pandemic.

Rommel Griffith delivers food to Black families in the Montreal area on behalf of the African Canadian Development and Prevention Network. Since COVID-19 began, the organization says it’s heard from many families about the struggle to put food on the table.
Rommel Griffith delivers food to Black families in the Montreal area on behalf of the African Canadian Development and Prevention Network. Since COVID-19 began, the organization says it’s heard from many families about the struggle to put food on the table. Using funds received from the Red Cross, ACDPN says it has distributed close to 2,000 meals, gift cards and meal kits to date. 


When COVID-19 hit, the organization’s ability to connect with communities also took a direct hit, especially with its in-person programming; however, ACDPN was able to adapt its services thanks to a grant provided by the Government of Canada through the Canadian Red Cross.

“We would have figured out a way, but the funding received from the Red Cross really helped a lot,” said Tania Callender, Executive Director, African Canadian Development and Prevention Network. “Food security is coming up as a huge issue; when the pandemic hit in March and everything was shut down, we still continued to do what we regularly do and check in. All of a sudden, we were hearing about food security – people are not able to go to work or are at home with the kids and the financial burden is becoming apparent. Food security catapulted right to the top of the issues. When we saw the grant, we knew right away it was going to be a fit.”

Three young students with new backpacksThe grant provided through the federal government’s Emergency Community Support Fund, enabled ACDPN to distribute almost 2,000 meals, gift cards and meal kits to date. It also helped families prepare for a return to school in a pandemic environment.

“We started with food security in June then we tackled ‘back to school’ at the end of the summer,” added Callender. “When August hit, we wanted to make sure parents had all the information in English they needed for a safe return to school.

“We were able to give out approximately 550 school bags. We would have given out school bags, we would have found a way – but, would it have been that many? Definitely not. Would it have included all the stuff that it had in it? Definitely not. The financial support has been immeasurable.”

Callender said it has been challenging work, especially adapting the logistics of the meal delivery program during a pandemic. However, it is making a positive impact.

“The response from the community has been awesome. Every message of thanks we get makes it 100 per cent worth it.”

“It’s my pleasure to be one of the beneficiaries of this great community. We really enjoyed the food delivery so much as well as the gift cards. We therefore express our profound gratitude and appreciation to the entire staff of ACDPN.
Thank you. God Bless.” - Mr. S

“ACDPN is indeed a heaven sent to me and my family. I and my family are highly blessed by your support each and every week. I always look forward to hearing and receiving from them. Once again I say THANK YOU.” -Mrs. A

 
The Canadian Red Cross is funding the continuation of this work thanks to the generous support of the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund granting program.

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