On a Tuesday morning, it’s a steady stream of people coming to Edmonton’s Food Bank; among those waiting is Stephanie van Beek, who says the time spent waiting has “given me a chance to focus less on the food stress or the financial stress, and give more option to focus on my actual education.”
“I’ve been coming to the food bank now for a few years,” the student explains.
On the day van Beek arrived, the agency launched its 2019 Festive Campaign, with a goal to raise 370,000 kilograms of food, plus $2 million in donations.
“It’s been a challenging year, numbers remain high,” says Marjorie Bencz, the food bank’s executive director.
Last month, 23,119 people were helped by the organization, a jump of more than 1,000 compared to October 2018.
“We are very concerned about what the economy does and if that’s going to drive increased numbers of people,” Bencz says.
“Food banks very much are kind of that canary in the coal mine.”
The Edmonton Social Planning Council watches trends like food bank usage closely.
With de-indexing of AISH payments and provincial tax brackets, the council expects people will have less purchasing power.
So it continues its push for changes such as livable incomes and affordable housing.
“If we want food bank use to ever go down, and to alleviate some of that pressure that food banks are facing, we’re going to have to keep doing a lot more work,” explains Sandra Ngo, a research co-ordinator with the council.
In 2018, the food bank reached its campaign goals, something staff want a repeat of this season.
The Festive Campaign runs until Jan. 10, 2020.