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Member Profile October 2016



Rupi Malto’ s family is part of a Foodgrains Bank-supported agriculture and livelihoods project in India. The project involves, among other things supporting families in growing kitchen gardens to improve consumption of nutrient-rich vegetables and overall health.

This month CCIC met with Jim Cornelius, Executive Director of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) and former chair of CCIC’s Board. We discussed the importance of partnerships and youth engagement, as well as current campaigns, among other things!

CCIC - Most of the work that CFGB does is based on partnerships: with your members, with Canadian farmers and with local partners. Can you tell us more about why these partnerships are central to your work? 

Jim Cornelius - The Canadian Foodgrains Bank is an association of 15 member churches or church-based agencies working together to end global hunger through the support of food assistance, nutrition, agriculture and livelihood programs. We also work to engage Canadians on global hunger issues and influence policy change. As an association, partnership is at the heart of how we work. The Foodgrains Bank was formed in 1983 as a vehicle for Canadian churches to work together in addressing global hunger. From the beginning it was important to identify and articulate the ‘value-added’ of the partnership. We regularly need to revisit and adjust the ‘value-added’ the partnership provides to ensure that it remains healthy and relevant.

Initially the ‘value-added’ of the partnership was the development of a joint mechanism to mobilize grain resources from Canadian farmers and make these resources available to our members to meet food needs around the world. The deep partnership that developed with the Canadian farming community and related businesses is still central to who we are. While we no longer ship Canadian grain, we continue to have a strong relationship with the Canadian agriculture community; providing farmers and agriculture businesses a vehicle to use their gifts and skills to make a difference in the world. We also established a long-standing funding partnership with the federal government; providing the government with a unique arrangement through which they could partner with the Canadian farming and agriculture community in the provision of food assistance, a partnership that is deeply valued by both parties.

The 15 member churches and agencies that make up the Canadian Foodgrains Bank each have well-established, long-term relationships with partner organizations in many countries and communities around the world. Most of our international program is delivered through this network. Because of large scope of the network we are often well placed to respond to food needs in many parts of the world as they arise and to work with and through local organizations and structures. The Foodgrains Bank also provides technical support to its members and their partners to strengthen the cost-effectiveness and quality of the programming being delivered. We also create opportunities for the members and partners to learn from each other. More recently, the Foodgrains Bank partnership facilitates the development of public engagement resources and materials available to all our members and their constituents, and we have developed a joint advocacy voice for the churches on global hunger issues.

The many partnership relationships we have is the reason we speak of ‘working together to end global hunger’.


CCIC - One of your current campaigns is the “Good Soil” campaign; what are the key asks and what has the campaign accomplished so far?

Jim Cornelius - The key ask of the Good Soil campaign is to persuade Global Affairs Canada to provide more and sustained support for small-scale farmers around the world. We've been advocating for aid investments in agriculture for many years, and were successful in helping persuade the previous government to make food security one of its priorities. We saw a significant increase in funding for agriculture following the global food crisis. However, that level of funding has been falling, so we launched our Good Soil campaign to help restore aid funding for agriculture to at least $500 million a year. The terrible irony is that the vast majority of people who are hungry in the world depend on agriculture in some form or other for the livelihoods. There is solid evidence that well designed investments and growth in the smallholder agriculture sector can make a significant contribution to reducing poverty and hunger, and can serve as a platform for achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals.

With some special funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we have been able to devote more resources to this policy work. We have been pulling together, summarizing and disseminating research making the case for investment in small-scale agriculture, building public support for the campaign resulting in over 12,000 Good Soil postcards from the public being sent to the Prime Minister's Office, organizing and holding many meetings with MPs, and engaging in multiple conversations with departmental officials and the Minister's office. We believe the campaign has been successful in making the case for Canada to invest more in smallholder agriculture and building support for such an investment. However, we also recognized that it was critical to build a broader supporting coalition around the goals of the Good Soil campaign.


CCIC - CFGB is also a member of the “Aid for Agriculture” campaign. How does that complement your own efforts? And what would success look like?

Jim Cornelius - Drawing on the relationships that already exist through the Food Security Policy Group, we have helped establish a larger coalition calling for increased aid investments targeted at smallholders. This larger effort has been branded as the #Aid4Ag campaign. We see it as an extension of our Good Soil campaign that includes many more Canadian organizations. The Aid for Agriculture campaign is tailored to show how an increased investment in agriculture can contribute to many of Canada’s priorities and the Sustainable Development Goals. Success for us will be: 1) many and diverse Canadian organizations supporting this initiative (over 35 organizations are already supporting the campaign), 2) investment in smallholder agriculture will be prominently integrated into the aid framework that emerges from the international assistance review, and 3) aid funding for agriculture will be restored to at least $500 million a year.


CCIC - Many faith-based organizations face the reality of having aging supporters. How do you respond to the challenge of engaging youth?

Jim Cornelius - We have made the strategic decision to engage youth through educators and youth leaders. With a small public engagement staff complement, we can only directly engage a limited number of youth. However, we can expand our reach significantly if we equip teachers and youth leaders who are on the frontlines of engaging youth. We develop and disseminate resources for teachers and youth leaders concerning global hunger and poverty. Some of these resources are designed for faith community contexts and other resources for more secular contexts. We often attend teacher conferences to engage with teachers and share our resources.

We have found there is an appetite for these types of resources in the school system and in the church community. Another way we are reaching out is through conducting learning tours for educators and youth leaders so they can see for themselves the realities of global hunger and what is being done at community levels to reduce and end hunger. This inspires them to integrate issues of global hunger into their teaching and programs.


CCIC - CFGB is an active member of CCIC; what do you value the most in your membership?  

Jim Cornelius - For us it is important to be an active part of the larger relief and development community in Canada. Achieving our mission is not something that can be done alone. There is always something that can be learned from others, and activities that can best be done together. We see CCIC as a convener of important conversations and as a vehicle for the relief and development community to speak with a collective voice on certain key issues.



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