The owner of a local grocery store is seeking to share food from Africa with the community.
“Most African communities have been missing the taste of the food they grew up eating,” said Charles Kyabaggu, owner of Tropicana Grocery Store. “I love food. I love eating,” Kyabaggu said, gesturing at the wide variety of foods on the shelves. “I want to serve the community—each and every house. Food is a necessity for every home.”
Kyabaggu imports food from East Africa to Edmonton. From peas and peanuts to passion fruit and dried fish from Lake Victoria, he imports the food from Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya.
He is proud of the quality of the food he carries. Kyabaggu, who worked as a farmer and electrical engineer before coming to Canada as a refugee, has visited all the farms which grow the products he stocks.
“I made a survey on the ground; we know the farmers. We know what we bring from and where, and how they process the food.”
The farms supplying the store use traditional, small-scale farming methods rather than large-scale imported methods. Kyabaggu said the home-grown food “is like medicine—you can feel the change in your body when you eat it. All it needs to grow is rain and sunshine.”
Kyabaggu grew up farming with his mother and brother in Uganda and knows the impact of having a market for your wares. He said he is passionate about helping small farms get their product to market.
While there are many dried products in the store, transporting fresh food poses some difficulty. Only one airline flies direct from Africa to Edmonton. If any stage of the order is delayed by even a day, it can result in a three-day delivery delay, which means fresh produce may already be overripe. More competition in airlines would alleviate this problem, Kyabaggu said.
He also stocks a variety of packaged products: green, red, and black teas from Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Uganda; several types of flour like sorghum, soy, millet, and cassava; skin care products; spices and dried cassava roots.
He said he is also working with more fish suppliers to ensure they meet the Canadian Food Inspection Agency requirements. He is looking forward to lake fish, saying it is “so tasty and will be hard to keep on the shelves because it is so good.”
He added he wants to hear customer’s feedback. “I want everyone to get what they want from the store and I want to know if it meets your expectations.”
Rebecca has been a full-time photographer for the last nine years and is a mother to two boys and stepmother to two girls.
TROPICANA GROCERY STORE
OWNER: CHARLES KYABAGGU
11739 88 STREET
HOURS: MON-SAT 11-8
Featured Image: Charles Kyabaggu and his assistant Morceline stand in front of food imported from East Africa. | Rebecca Lippiatt