Image: I.O.D.E. member, Ann Watson, with Meals on Wheels, 1981 (SPRA 111.04.110)
Scattered throughout the Archives’ collections, we see evidence of communities in the South Peace coming together to feed the hungry. Friends and neighbours have often banded together when times were tough, but as the community has grown, so too has the need for more structured support. In 1919, Captain Gains and Martha Nelson established the Salvation Army in Grande Prairie. They and other local churches and organizations provided meals to those in need at free community dinners.
During the Great Depression, the relative agricultural prosperity of the region brought many debt-ridden homesteaders north in hopes of finding better living conditions. Assistance provided by the Unemployment Relief Act was supplemented by groups such as the Women’s Institutes and the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (I.O.D.E.). These groups, and others, made hampers and hosted dinners through the Second World War and beyond.
In 1972, Meals on Wheels was introduced to Grande Prairie, delivering hot meals to those who were unable to cook for themselves at home. Many organizations helped administer this program to keep costs low, including the Royal Purple, Kinette Club, and the Welcome Wagon.
In the early 1980s, when Alberta’s economy was particularly hard hit, community groups again stepped in to offer help. The Grande Prairie Friendship Centre began offering Christmas hampers in addition to their regular programming and, in 1997, partnered with a number of community groups on the Canada Pre-Natal Nutrition Program.
The Grande Prairie food bank amalgamated with the Salvation Army Family Services in 1989 and, a few years later, opened a soup kitchen to assist those experiencing homelessness. More recently, in 2019, the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre and the Salvation Army partnered to combine their kitchens in one centralized location to better meet the needs of the community.
Especially during the holidays, these groups remind us of the power of food… and a little kindness.
This article was originally featured in the December 2020 issue of Telling Our Stories.