COVID-19: Edmonton Meals Financial institution adapts to excessive demand, canceled meals promotions amid pandemic

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Jeff Labine A volunteer is packing baskets at Edmonton Food Bank, 11508 120 St., Tuesday, April 28, 2020. The organization had to make changes to how food baskets are processed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. A volunteer is packing baskets at Edmonton Food Bank, 11508 120 St., Tuesday, April 28, 2020. The organization had to make changes to how food baskets are processed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by David Bloom /Postal media

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Amid record high demand, Edmonton Food Bank is considering how to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic after canceling one of its biggest food promotions of the year.

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The Edmonton Heritage Festival announced on April 24th that the three-day event in August would be canceled due to restrictions on mass gatherings. The festival is the summer’s biggest fundraiser for the city’s food bank.

“It will be a marathon for everyone,” said food bank spokeswoman Tamisan Bencz-Knight on Tuesday. “We consider three months, six months, eight months as an organization. What will affect us, how we move, how we have to see things differently if our cultural heritage festival is not there this year. “

Since the beginning of the year, demand for the food banks has risen to a record level, with more than 25,000 people needing help in March. Bencz-Knight said this was an 18 percent increase in March over the same period last year.

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“We got through this with hopeful support from the community and great volunteers and wonderful guidance,” she said. “April looks a little easier, but that’s because governments decided to quickly release money to the community and increase those payments.”

An Alberta Motor Association volunteer is packing baskets at Edmonton Food Bank, 11508 120 St., Tuesday, April 28, 2020. The organization has had to make changes to how food baskets are processed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. An Alberta Motor Association volunteer is packing baskets at Edmonton Food Bank, 11508 120 St., Tuesday, April 28, 2020. The organization has had to make changes to how food baskets are processed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by David Bloom /Postal media

Volunteering has also declined since the pandemic started in March.

Bencz-Knight said up to 100 volunteers could normally work from their warehouse on 120 Street, but only about 25 are allowed to minimize the spread of the virus.

“As you can see in the warehouse, we have more sorting areas that we had to expand to make more space between people,” she said. “It changes our flow, but we try not to skip this beat. We’re working longer, we’ve changed some of our systems to be more efficient. Instead of building a basket on a cart, they take a pallet and build three or four, up to six at a time. It was not bad.”

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The food bank received a little extra help on Tuesday when 10 AMA employees volunteered.

Jeff Kasbrick, vice president of government and advocacy relations at AMA, said the volunteering was part of a broader initiative by the company to support plaques and other charities across the province.

“This is an opportunity for AMA to continue helping organizations,” he said. “Our employees come together during work hours to volunteer and do whatever they can to support and ensure that those who need the support of these charities receive it.”

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