The primary mandate of Edmonton’s Food Bank is to feed people – even during a pandemic. Now that new procedures have been in place for several months, we can take a moment to look back and reflect on how we made good on our promise and kept our doors open to serve people in need.
While some businesses were considered non-essential and lost revenue and staff, it wasn’t a hard decision to deem Edmonton’s Food Bank a critical part of this community. Fortunately, our Board of Directors and Executive Director have always provided great strategic direction and ensured we were sustainable and prepared for any challenge including access to emergency funds. Our inventory levels are crucial to weather any crisis, and we took steps to ensure our food reserves were sufficient to handle the unknown.
It is no exaggeration to say that in the early stages of the pandemic, the situation changed hourly. Management followed local news closely and quickly put in orders for hand sanitizer, gloves and cleaning supplies, and we were well stocked with toilet paper and paper towels! Similar to other Edmonton businesses, we installed hand washing stations and plexiglass barriers by mid March. Packing hampers and distributing food is very hands on. Staff at Edmonton’s Food Bank are cross trained in a variety of tasks, including preparing food hampers and taking calls from people in need. As groups of volunteers were no longer an option, staff and individual, long-term volunteers were called upon to continue preparing between 100 to 150 hampers per day.
Edmonton’s Food Bank supports many shelters and soup kitchens in Edmonton. When these organizations requested single serving items and deli meat for “easy to go” meals, we adjusted our food purchases to best assist them.
A Little Help from our Friends
Edmonton’s Food Bank works collaboratively with over 60 food depots around the city which provide clients with access to food near their homes. Some of these depots are run by dedicated volunteers, many of which are elderly and therefore, more susceptible to COVID-19. Several of these depots closed in mid-March and 5,000 clients needed to be reassigned. Here’s where Edmontonians really stepped up.
YEG Community Response and Drive Happiness supported our most vulnerable who could not pick up their food hampers and did not have other supports. YEG Community Response is a Facebook group who helped manage volunteer drivers until July. Thanks to their help, we were able to create an efficient door-to-door delivery service that would never have been possible in the past.
Drive Happiness normally focuses on providing mobility for seniors, but this volunteer-run organization was able to pivot around the situation and deliver food to those who were in a high-risk category and therefore isolating themselves. This ongoing support meant our most vulnerable clients received the food they needed.
The management team at Edmonton’s Food Bank has been tasked with putting together a plan for 2021 in unprecedented times. Our mantra is “we strive for excellence”. We have set monetary goals and there are some strategies we can undertake to help ensure the success of this organization.
The months of January, February and March, 2020 were on track to be the highest record number of people needing our help; March saw an 18% increase in requests for hampers. April’s numbers were substantially lower because of CERB and other government programs. Now that those subsidies have ended, the need for our services is rising again.
As a community driven organization, a majority of our public donations come through events and fundraisers such as the Edmonton Heritage Festival which raises over 50,000 kilograms of food and roughly $100,000 each year. This and many other events did not take place this year. Edmonton’s Food Bank must be top of mind for Christmas and the festive season.
Edmonton’s Food Bank doors are open, and have been open all year. We need continued community support to do what we do.
If you would like to help serve Edmontonians in need this holiday season, please consider making donations of time, food and money. Visit us online to find out more. Thank you for your support. Keep well and keep safe.