October 16, 2018 2:32 pm
Updated: October 16, 2018 10:21 pm

Edmonton’s Food Bank sees demand increase by 50% in 3 years

Killarney School staff and students collect 10,000 items for Edmonton's food bank.

Wes Rosa, Global News
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The number of people who receive hampers from Edmonton’s Food Bank has increased by 50.6 per cent over the past three years.

Between July 2015 and July 2018, the number of people accessing the hamper program increased from 13,869 to 20,892, according to the food bank’s 2018 client survey. This number doesn’t include the people who access the food bank’s meal and snack programs.

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“What is new to us from the 2018 survey and quite troubling is the data surrounding employment and income,” executive director Marjorie Bencz said.

“In the three years between surveys, there is a nearly 20 per cent increase in the number of people whose income is less than $25,000.”

READ MORE: Cans or cash? How to best help your local food bank

Of the 505 hamper recipients questioned for the survey, 72 per cent of respondents said their household income in 2017 was less than $25,000. Just over 20 per cent of people said their household income was between $25,000 and $40,000 and 7.5 per cent said their income was more than $40,000 per year.

When it comes to the people the food bank serves, they come from all walks of life. Youth under the age of 18 make up about 40 per cent of the food bank’s clientele.

LISTEN BELOW: Marjorie Bencz speaks with the 630 CHED Afternoon News

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Of those questioned, 90 per cent are Canadian citizens, with more than 70 per cent saying they have lived in Edmonton for more than three years. Nearly 43 per cent of recipients had either attended or graduated from trade school, college or university.

“The person I interviewed was an electrical engineer in Egypt, very articulate and excellent decision-making skills,” said a volunteer who interviewed people for the survey. “He is in his mid-50s and came to Canada three years ago. He cannot get a job, he even offered to volunteer with a company, but no luck. His health is deteriorating due to increased stress.”

READ MORE: Edmonton’s Food Bank: ‘Food is going out faster than it’s coming in’

The majority of food bank clients are unemployed, with 78.2 per cent of people saying they’ve lost their job in the last three months. That’s a jump from 71 per cent in 2015.

Just over 45 per cent of people surveyed this year said they’ve been unemployed for more than three years. Of the hamper recipients who are employed, most of them — 58.6 per cent — are working part-time.

“Providing people with the support and skills to pave the way to more stable and higher paying employment is critical to changing these numbers,” Bencz said.

READ MORE: How much does a week of groceries cost in Canada? We crunched the numbers

In hopes of connecting people with the services they need, the food bank began offering a new program in November 2017 called Beyond Food. The community partnership offers services such as resume preparation, job interview practice, job search assistance and help securing safety tickets.

Since November 2017, more than 300 people have used the free service.

“There is more work for us to do to connect with city employers and expand our staffing resources, but we have had a good start and look forward to addressing the unmet needs of the people we serve,” Bencz said.

The 2018 survey results can be read below:

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