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In Regina, a new initiative is set to change the way people think about food banks. The Regina Food Bank is transforming into the Community Food Hub, a place where those in need can shop for their weekly groceries without the worry of cost. This comes in response to a significant increase in food bank usage, which has seen a 25% rise in Regina since the pandemic began. The city faces a growing issue with food insecurity, affecting one in eight families and even more starkly, one in four children. With the launch of this innovative model, located in a repurposed downtown government liquor store, 16,000 monthly clients, of whom 44% are children, will experience a new way to meet their nutritional needs. Set to open its doors this summer, the Community Food Hub is reimagining support by combining dignity with solidarity.

The ‘Choice Model’

At the heart of the new Community Food Hub run by the Regina Food Bank is an innovative approach known as the ‘choice model.’ This model empowers individuals relying on food bank services by allowing them the freedom to select their own groceries according to their household’s needs. The shift towards offering choice, instead of pre-packaged assortments, aims to uphold the dignity of clients while also addressing practical concerns about food wastage.

David Froh, a leading figure at the Regina Food Bank, highlights that this new method is not only more respectful but also more efficient. By tailoring assistance to what clients will actually use, the organization anticipates they’ll be able to extend their support to even more people in need. The challenge with the conventional approach is that it doesn’t always match the varied needs and preferences of the individuals it serves. For instance, some people might end up with items they cannot use or don’t know how to prepare, leading to potential waste.

Jon White, a client involved in the consultation process for the Community Food Hub, shared his personal experience with the traditional system. In the past, he often found himself trading items with neighbors to get something more suitable for his single lifestyle, like ingredients for simple meals. White pointed out that not everyone has the opportunity to swap unwanted items, resulting in unused food. His insights underline the significance of a system that accommodates individual preferences and needs.

White also expressed his enthusiasm for shopping in an environment that resembles a traditional grocery store, which he believes will create a more comfortable and less intimidating experience for food bank clients. This approach marks a significant shift from a purely transactional aid model to one that fosters a sense of normalcy and respect for those seeking assistance.

 Redefining Food Assistance with Innovation and Community Support

Spearheaded by the Regina Food Bank, this effort is backed by a community-driven fundraising goal of $5 million, having already secured $3.7 million for the facility previously purchased for $750,000 from the provincial government.

The Community Food Hub, not reliant on government funding for its operations, underscores the importance of community support. Contributions have ranged from significant donations by corporate entities to heartfelt offerings from individuals, highlighting a collective commitment to this innovative project. This initiative not only aims to alleviate hunger but also educates the younger generation, with plans to engage approximately 5,000 students in nutrition and financial literacy programs.

Clients visiting the hub, after a simple registration process focusing on household size and income, will have access to appointments every two weeks, each leaving with approximately $200 worth of food per person. This approach not only aims to meet immediate dietary needs but also fosters a broader understanding of personal finance and nutrition among Regina’s youth, laying the groundwork for a future where aid and empowerment go hand in hand.

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