Edmonton Food Bank experiencing record calls in time of need

WATCH ABOVE: Jessica Kent reports on the high volume of phone calls the Edmonton food bank is experiencing. 

EDMONTON – Edmonton Food Bank staff are experiencing a demand they haven’t dealt with in nearly a decade. The number of calls requesting the organization’s services is so high that some callers are having a hard time getting through.

Lori Staranchuk is one of those frustrated callers. She doesn’t know where she’ll get her next meal if she can’t access the food bank.

“It has been very difficult to get in touch with them. I’ve been trying for the last two weeks,” says Staranchuk.

“It has been a very big help at times when we’ve had nothing to eat. It has gotten us through until our next pay cheque.”

Food bank staff say there has been a steady rise in the number of people needing its services since September 2014, which has caused a backlog to the phone systems.

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“People are reaching a busy signal just because of the sheer volume of people,” explains Marjorie Bencz, Edmonton Food Bank.

The first month of 2015 saw a record high 16,000 people using the hamper program.

Last September, 14,000 used the program, which was 1,000 to 2,000 more users than in September 2013.

Food bank use in Canada. Global News

The increase in the organization’s services is happening as Alberta’s economy becomes more unstable, and it’s reflective of the last recession seven years ago.

“In 2008, when the economy changed we had a huge spike in increase in number of clients with the hamper program,” says Tamisan Bencz-Knight, Food Bank.

“That’s when we see a lot of new faces, individuals who have never had to use our services.”

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READ MORE: 5 common myths about food bank use in Canada

Other food bank programs that are offered through different organizations have also spiked.

“We do have limitations as an organization. We don’t have any government funding. We rely on contributions from the community, we rely on volunteers hours to do the work we do, so there are times when we are literally are at capacity,” explains Bencz.

The Edmonton Food Bank has 23 phone lines and staff are encouraging callers to be patient as the call will be answered eventually.

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