City of Edmonton social workers Cathy Vereyken and Alicia D’Elia sat down 25 years ago to imagine how they could help alleviate the “empty fridge” syndrome. That is, the issue families and individuals face in ensuring that fresh, nutritious food can be available near the end of the month when finances are running low. They never would have thought just how far those plans would bear fruit – and vegetables, and meat! I am talking about the food security program they created, the WECAN Food Basket Society, which will be celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary of helping families and individuals in June 2018.
WECAN had its humble beginnings starting with one depot in the Abbottsfield Community Recreation Centre (ARC). From this small, grassroots initiative, the program has continued to grow and expand to include more than 30 depots in Edmonton and the surrounding areas, serving more than 500 families today.
The WECAN Food Basket Society of Alberta was incorporated on June 17, 1993 and is a Registered Charity with Revenue Canada. We operate with a singular vision: The WECAN Food Basket Society believes every family and individual has the right to enough food to meet the nutritional needs to live a good and healthy life.
The WECAN Food Basket Society provides families and individuals food security by giving them the opportunity to purchase nutritious food at an affordable price. Over the years our members report that it is income and poor access to grocery stores with reasonably-priced produce that makes the basket so essential to their personal food security plan. “It’s hard to buy broccoli at a convenience store,” our members tell us. WECAN volunteers bring the food to their communities. Many of our members depend on public transportation and cannot access the sales and lower prices of larger stores, often situated on the edges of the city. Given the community locations of our depots, members are able to pick up their groceries from WECAN. Our model is not charity but self-sufficiency in a community setting.
In 1996, The Grocery People were approached to provide the meat and produce offered in the program and this relationship has continued to the present day.
Members receive a newsletter with the food order which provides food handling and safety information along with relatively easy recipes using the food from the current order. Several organizations such as ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen and Company’s Coming have graciously allowed us to use their recipes in our newsletter.
We are community based, community organized, and serving the community – showing that with thrift and hard work: WECAN.
The City Centre depot is located at the McCauley Boys and Girls Club, and is run in partnership with McCauley Boys and Girls Club and e4c.