May 28th, 2024

Food drive-thru providing a hand up from hunger

By Dale Woodard - Lethbridge Herald on December 29, 2021.

Herald photo by Dale Woodard Henry Martens and Judy Weing load the back of a truck up with food at the Calgary Family Peer Connections drive-thru Tuesday at Weing's Sprinkler Irrigation Specialists and J.R. Logistics.

A group specializing in helping southern Albertans is offering a hand up, not a hand out.
Calgary Family Peer Connections, a mental health nonprofit that has also established a food rescue program to assist clients in food insecurities, set up shop at Weing’s Sprinkler Irrigation Specialists and J.R. Logistics for a drive-thru-style initiative Tuesday.
However, Tuesday’s drive-thru wasn’t a giveaway with each family coming through paying $20 for their food items.
“In the year 2022, our focus is ‘Hand up and not out,’ and the costs are extreme,” said Jaquie Duhacek, founder and director of CFPC. “So we’re spending about $20,000 a month on transportation and the grants are not there yet. So in order to help our communities recover and learn new ways to budget the income they now have to face with long-term incomes, we’re giving them a hand up, and not a hand out. So they have a fee of $20.”
Duhacek said Tuesday’s drive-thru would provide for between 500 to 1,000 cars.
In fact, prior to the doors opening Tuesday morning, vehicles were already lined up around the block as participating vehicles were registered and paid their fee while volunteers loaded up back seats, trunks and the cabs of trucks as the vehicles – some containing multiple families – drove inside the shop three at a time.
A total of 30,000 pounds of food worth $70,000 was donated at Tuesday’s drive-thru with the $20 fee covering transportation and storage of the goods.
“We have dried goods, we have frozen goods, we have proteins and we have options,” said Duhacek. “So they’re going to be able to go down the line, the volunteers will load the cars. The volunteers are arranging all of the logistics for Lethbridge. They’ve arranged this location and given it to us for free. So we’ve been very fortunate. They have committed over $2,000 in a one-day event to the community. It’s been pretty amazing.”
Calgary Family Peer Connections will celebrate its second anniversary in February.
“We’ve been constantly asked to come into Lethbridge because of their huge food vulnerability,” said Duhacek. “We already provide food to agencies in Lethbridge and for the last couple of months we’ve been the major donor for the Lethbridge Soup Kitchen and the Lethbridge Food Bank. We also provide food to churches and groups. We have a large group of Chinese immigrants. We’ve also been working with other immigrant groups to make sure those communities are being served. So we decided to come into Lethbridge and do our food distribution.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic, Duhacek said Calgary Family Peer Connections is finding new ways to support communities.
“We’re seeing people really wanting to help,” she said. “So what’s going to happen is there are going to be products that are not going to be usable by a client. So instead of it going to a landfill it’s actually going to be shared into the community using Facebook and giving it to families and that is really promoting mental wellness. They’re checking on their neighbours and they’re feeling like they’re volunteering and giving to their neighbours and contributing to other people. There are a lot of great things, you’re building new friendships we would have normally done in play groups in the park. But now you’re able to find a new way to build your support and have that in a safe manner.”
Duhacek has been a rehabilitation practitioner since 1995.
“I’ve worked a lot in this community with persons with disabilities, but back then persons with disabilities and mental illness were combined,” she said. “Now, the system in our Alberta government and our health care has really done a great job with defining the two differences between developmental disabilities and mental illness.”
As such, Calgary Family Peer Connections focuses on mental illness, something Duhacek said she deals with.
“I created this non-profit because I was always able to see something a little different than other people because I have a mental illness. I was always seen as a little bit eccentric, a little bit weird and a little different. So here, how this works is I have the ideas. I make them work and I make people see my vision and they believe me.
“I don’t have to worry anymore about someone judging me because I’m a bit quirky and we can show people that my things do happen and mean something and I have these great ideas that do come to fruition.”
Calgary Family Peer Connections specializes in rural Alberta, but also provides services to Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer, said Duhacek.
They also focus on southern Alberta, having done drive-thru style food distribution in Champion, Carmangay, Nanton, Barons and Raymond.
“We’ll go in and teach a group how to provide this type of a drive-thru and support and educate them and give them all the materials they need,” said Duhacek.
Calgary Family Peer Connections is also looking for church and community groups to work with.
“You don’t even have to be registered as a group,” said Duhacek. “We’re working together as a team to give to your community. 
For more information on Calgary Family Peer Connections or to donate, visit

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