Rock Soup Greenhouse & Food Bank was officially started by Craig Haavaldsen in 2020, but the idea sprouted from experiences long before that, when he was working with the public in his social services career.  While interacting with clients, Craig would observe how many would go without food, often for the whole day.  Additionally, after researching the social determinants of health for a work project, and looking at the new food guide and the nutritional recommendations, Craig realized that it would be impossible for the typically bi-weekly hampers of food banks to give the recommended amount fresh fruits and vegetables for families in need.

He then started researching different models for food banks, and the sensible, sustainable way to provide this is to grow it.  When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the situation caused anxiety for Craig, but he also saw a way to ground himself and keep busy during this tumultuous time. With his friend Becky Flowers and his kids by his side, Craig spent the spring and summer building the first Rock Soup Greenhouse: a 900 square foot facility on rented land in Edmonton, and afterwards started looking for larger facilities, as well as ones in central Alberta in order to fill a food bank gap in more rural communities.

Craig also wanted to improve the system further; in order to access hampers – or many social services in general— individuals and families have to go through a timely and invasive process, sharing information about sensitive personal circumstances. The current food distribution method for everyone else doesn’t have those same conditions; the public can go in, buy their food, and leave.  Having a food bank setup as a store therefore made sense; in this way, families in need could not only have their nutritional needs met, but do so in a way that provided a shared experience with the rest of the public.

“It shouldn’t cost your dignity and autonomy to feed your family. A family shouldn’t have to wait two weeks to wait for groceries.  My vision started in watching the sacrifice people were making in trade for food. There should be no cost to have an equal shot at each day.  Without food security, there is no equality.