'We're really hurting': Demand for Edmonton Food Bank services doubled since pandemic

Article content

Edmonton’s Food Bank is feeling the burden of the increased need with hampers serving more than 42,000 in April alone as Alberta’s food insecurity rate skyrockets, according to a new report.

Marjorie Bencz, executive director of Edmonton’s Food Bank, said the last time her organization faced such challenges was duting the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Article content

Now, the need has doubled.

Edmonton’s Food Bank’s hamper program served 42,846 people in April 2024, a 36.9 per cent increase from April 2023 when it served 31,278 people.

In 2020 at the height of the pandemic, the number of people served through the Edmonton hamper program was between 16,000 to 18,000.

Hampers go out to people in need and include non-perishable and perishable foods, as well as hygiene items.

“We’re really hurting,” said Bencz.

“So many people are coming to us, they’re just not able to make ends meet. Rent’s gone up. Groceries have gone up. Every where they turn there’s some kind of increase that’s hitting them and lots of people don’t have much discretionary income.”

A new report by Food Banks Canada said Alberta’s food insecurity rate is 27 per cent higher than the national average. Across Canada 22.9 per cent of people are experience food insecurity, or 1 in 5 people. According to the report, 47 per cent of Albertans felt worse off financially compared to 2023.

As the need grows, Bencz said the size of the hampers people are receiving compared to three to four years ago is much smaller.

Article content

Bencz said the organization began seeing the ballooning challenge about 18 months ago. The food bank mainly relies on donations from the community and volunteers. While it receives some funding from upper levels of government, the food bank receives no funding from the City of Edmonton.

“The number of people needing help and the number of agencies turning to us is growing much faster than we were. We’re not getting that much more food,” Bencz said.

“We need to look at things like income support and can they make ends meet when they’re on income support. We need to do something about affordable housing. We keep hearing about people who are paying two thirds of their income for rent and then they try to get everything else, other needs met, whether it be childcare or food purchases and everything else, and there’s just not enough funds for them to live,” said Bencz.

Recent food bank drives include the Purolator Tackle Hunger event, held in conjunction with the Edmonton Elks’ June 8 home opener at Commonwealth Stadium.

Last year’s Purolator Tackle Hunger Game Day Food Drive saw fans raise more than 50,000 pounds of food for the local food bank.

Recommended from Editorial

[email protected]
X: @kccindytran

Share this article in your social network