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People and programs 10/14/2022
Shannon McCauley is the Director of Partnership Development at Community Food Centres Canada. Recently, Shannon and her team have been supporting our Community Food Centre partners as they transition back to offering in-person programming. This is the second of a four-part blog series that shares what this has looked like in several communities across Canada.

When The Alex Community Food Centre in Calgary announced they were introducing a new in-person Family Night Dinner, the excitement was palpable. 

Folks immediately began tagging each other within the comments section of The Alex’s social media announcement posts, making plans to meet in person after taking part in many months of virtual family cooking classes. 

Other people saw the news as an opportunity to spend much-needed quality time together with their families, while being in community.

Darrell Howard, Program Lead of The Alex CFC, shared one such story with me recently. She spoke of a couple who has turned Family Night at The Alex into their “date night”. While the kids have fun making crafts at the harvest table, the parents get some uninterrupted adult conversation. Over a meal they didn’t have to cook!  It’s an opportunity they haven’t been afforded since before the little ones were born. 

Staff and volunteers at The Alex CFC also told me they have noticed how the Family Night meal creates a safe space for families to get to know each other. As Darrell describes: 

“Kids are hopping from one table to another to greet their new friends. It’s become a ‘must-do’ family activity, with parents getting plenty of reminders to attend from their little ones. And the kindness and sense of community they feel at Family Night is leading others to get more involved at The Alex CFC, which is so amazing to see.” 

For those who may have fallen through the cracks trying to navigate socioeconomic systems on their own, coming to The Alex CFC for a meal on Family Night can open up a lot of possibilities. 

It’s a chance to sit down with other people while having a beautiful, satisfying meal. While they’re enjoying that meal, they spark a conversation, form a new relationship, and learn something new. Like a cooking or gardening program that’s open for registration, or how to get help filing taxes or find affordable housing in their area. 

The past few years have not been easy on anyone, but we know it’s been particularly tough on Community Food Centre staff. They are the people working the front lines, constantly shifting procedures, seeing increased need in their community and delivering emergency food programming in ways they’ve never had to before.

That’s why these renewed moments of community and connection are worth celebrating. It’s a strong reminder of what we’ve long known: there is power in a community coming together around food.
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