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DES MOINES, Iowa — The holiday season can hold different meanings for different families. For refugees, it can be a time when traditional holiday foods are impossible to find, so a local group is making it possible.

“Many of us come from Africa and we do not know the food here in the United States, so what we end up doing is we get something we do not know how to cook. We do not know how to prepare it, but this is the traditional food we have for this Christmas and being traditional draws us close to our home. It makes us feel like we are home,” said Joshua Kasibbo.

The Genesis Youth Foundation is a nonprofit in Des Moines that aims to empower immigrant families through athletics and education. Their “Giving Table Grocery Giveaway” allows those families to receive culturally appropriate foods similar to what they would find in their native African communities. Those foods can often be scarce in Iowa or unaffordable to families who recently moved to the United States. The free event is open to anyone in the community who is suffering from food insecurity and will also provide winter hats and gloves by Shining City Foundation and Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.

The Giving Table was made possible through a grant provided by the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Disaster Recovery Fund Investment from Refugee Alliance of Central Iowa, an initiative of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. Organizers say some refugee families chose not to participate in many food giveaways during the pandemic because they were unfamiliar with the foods being given away.

Providing culturally appropriate food at this time of year does much more than address the hunger of families in need. Kasibbo said, “If I have matoke, I have some chicken, I have some mielie, that would make my day. Those from Liberia we have fufu, those from Kenya we have some ugali and every part of Africa we have taken care of that.”

Franklin Junior High is located at 4801 Franklin Avenue. Food can be picked up on Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. while supplies last.