EDMONTON -- A community-driven initiative offering specialized foods to members of Edmonton’s African and Caribbean communities is at risk of closing if it can't find more funding.

If no one steps up, the food bank will shut down at the end of March but those behind it hope by proving its value, they can find ongoing support.

“We are hoping that somewhere along the line the city or another organization will step in so we can continue to provide this service to our citizens,” Nile Valley Foundation executive director Nii Koney told CTV News Edmonton. 

The program started up last spring – when COVID-19 shut many services down – and has since become vital for many Edmontonians of African and Caribbean descent.

"Weekly, we see easily 90 families accessing the supports from the centre," said Africa Centre program manager Emannuel Onah. "It's very important."

Community leaders were brainstorming ways to support residents through the pandemic and received $25,000 from the Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) to start the service up.

Since then, it's received additional support from ECF, as well as from the Ghana Friendship Association, Islamic Relief Canada, Loblaws and community members.

"When we look at the current structures in place to address food security, one of the biggest deficits we have is not addressing food and food security from a culture standpoint," said Onah.

"This is a pain that the community experiences on a daily basis and so if no one else does it, we will do it ourselves."

The program offers food hampers with kitchen staples like oil, sugar and rice but also includes specialty items like Teff flour, yams and curries. 

"It addresses overall wellness, overall participation in the community, it helps people just feel a sense of dignity and acceptance,” said Onah.

"It helps with people feeling heard and that their issues and needs are being addressed."