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Uncommon Solutions to Common Problems: Addressing Food Insecurity in Bowness

On a warm morning in late August, a team of volunteers was paving the way to food security for Bowness residents. No, literally – the group was pouring a concrete pathway for Bownesians to access a fridge, freezer and pantry outside of Awaken Church. Today, we know this space as The Common Cupboard in Bowness, and it’s part of a growing movement across Calgary.

pour

The Common Cupboard is open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. The Cupboard was created by volunteers and modelled after the community fridge in Crescent Heights. Nikayla, lead pastor at Awaken Church and proud Bownesian for the past six years, says the goal is to address food insecurity in Bowness through a collaborative community-led approach.

Once COVID hit, there were a lot of people in Bowness handing out lunches in the Boys and Girls Club parking lot. Some of them approached folks at the BCA and asked “How can we work together?” There was a food bank at St. Edmund’s Church, lunches going out from Bowcroft School, and what about Good Food Box? Even with so many options, barriers were thrown up in the form of mandatory registration or only being available on certain days for short periods. Enter Nikayla, who thought, “I know a really cool way to bring integration to all of those agencies.”

The Common Cupboard runs on a trust-based model where anyone who self-identifies as needing this service can access it. “I love that they can come here without signing up,” says Nikayla. “There’s no security cameras; no one is judging you. And this isn’t just for people experiencing homelessness. I think lots of people are concerned about the price and availability of food right now, but they might feel ashamed because they aren’t struggling as much as someone else. That’s not the point – The Common Cupboard is for anyone and everyone.”

The Common Cupboard is located at Awaken Church, next to the community garden. Everyone is welcome to access the food and other essential items stocked there. Patrons do not need to be affiliated with the church. The project was made possible through the Awaken Church Neighbourhood Fund and a Ripples grant.

Group

Some members of Awaken Church are directly involved in producing food that ends up in the fridge. Rod Olson, local regenerative agriculture specialist with YYC Growers is excited to “bring high quality food to the people who need it most but we need the help of the community. For Rod, it started with the YYC Growers Food Box which is a subscription service delivering locally grown fruits and vegetables to Calgarians. Each subscription supports local farmers, giving them the confidence they need to invest in growing their craft. Supporting local production is critical to the long-term supply of food for initiatives like The Common Cupboard, and Rod is delighted to be conducting systems-level science to raise the profile of local initiatives that address food insecurity. YYC Growers has a pickup location every Wednesday inside Awaken Church – consider subscribing to a Food Box and giving some of it back!

For those looking to help, Nikayla suggests buying in bulk at the grocery store and donating extras to the Cupboard. Restaurants in the community can contribute by ordering a bit more food and donating the surplus.

“You need a bit of milk and eggs because you had a hard week? We got you. Do not struggle. There’s no shame. You don’t have to sign up. You don’t have to qualify. There is enough.”

Where is The Common Cupboard? Right next to the community garden at Awaken Church (6508 Bowwood Dr NW).

Who can use The Common Cupboard? Anyone!

How can I support The Common Cupboard?

  • Drop off food items or toiletries at any time of day (no clothing or household items; no dumping)
  • Purchase a food subscription, like YYC Growers Food Box, on behalf of The Common Cupboard: yycgrowers.com
  • Help keep it clean: check expiration dates and compost expired or rotting food
  • Spread the word: tell your friends, family, neighbours, favourite restaurants and grocery stores
  • Follow on Instagram: @thecommoncupboardbowness
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