Edmonton Meals Financial institution collects donations at annual meals drive

Volunteers scoured city doorsteps Saturday in search of non-perishable goods.

Bags of food donations were picked up around the city throughout the day for the Edmonton Food Bank’s (EFB) annual food drive, which comes as the demand for services reaches record highs.

“The biggest challenge for us right now is keeping up with demand,” said Tamisan Bencz-Knight, manager of strategic relationships and partnerships at the EFB.

She said the EFB has seen a huge increase in the number of clients visiting, with over 36,000 served in August compared to the average of 19,000 a month in 2020. That’s more than the population of Leduc, she added.

“That is a huge amount monthly coming out of our organization, and that’s why food donations, food drives like this [are] so instrumental,” she said.

The drive has been running for 13 years, organized by the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints. Over 4,000 volunteers from the church dropped off 250,000 bright yellow bags to single family homes this week, collecting them Saturday to fill up trucks bound for the EFB.

“Every year I hold my breath at this moment as I watch these trucks roll in and I keep counting and I hope that there’s more and more and more,” said Chantelle McMullin, a communication director with the church.

McMullin said last year’s drive brought in almost 300,000 pounds of food. But, she added, inflation and rising costs of living are adding to financial strain, meaning more is needed for the growing number of people seeking services at the EFB.

“Their shelves are barer than they’ve ever been, so they really need the help of all Edmontonians. And so, I’m hopeful at this moment that we will step up as we always do as good people and fill those shelves,” she said.

Bencz-Knight said the EFB supplies food to around 300 community organizations, as well as to individuals and families, and the organization spent over $1.4 million on food purchases in 2022 to keep up with demand.

With food coming in as fast as it goes out, Bencz-Knight said, the city-wide food drive is a key strategy to building up some stock.

“Unfortunately you can’t just feed someone for one month. People need food and nourishment all the time, so we always have to make sure that the food stock keeps rolling in.”

She added that anything people can spare makes a difference, even if it’s just one dollar or one can of food. And there’s always room for volunteers if a time donation is more accessible.

“We want people to give what makes them happy to give,” Bencz-Knight said. “It’s whatever fits for you, because I don’t want giving to hurt.

“Giving should feel good.”

If you did not get a bag and would like to make a donation, you can drop off non-perishable items at major grocery stores or fire stations around Edmonton. Monetary donations can be made through the Edmonton Food Bank website.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Jessica Robb

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