Edmonton’s Food Bank is celebrating a major milestone on Saturday: 40 years of community service.
The food bank collects donations through grocery stores, the food industry and public donations in order to serve people facing food insecurity.
The organization first began when a group of inner city agencies were hoping to redirect surplus foods to people experiencing food insecurity in Edmonton.
“There has always been some type of service like churches; the food bank was a different kind of structure — a more collaborative structure to bring food from other sources into the organization,” said executive director Marjorie Bencz.
The organization was incorporated as the Edmonton Gleaners Association on Jan. 16, 1981, as a space to provide formal structure to re-direct extra food to clients. At the time, it operated out of the Prince of Wales Armouries.
“We were the first ‘food bank’ in Canada,” Bencz explained. “Other communities quickly picked it up and said: ‘This is what we need to do to provide a better option for people.'”
Bencz has seen the food bank evolve firsthand.
She became executive director in 1989 and volunteered for the organization prior to her appointment.
“I think we have tried to respond as a community very well to situations as they have happened,” said Bencz.
LISTEN: Edmonton’s Food Bank celebrates 40 years
“The last few years it’s been 60,000 people or more through the hamper program each year. That’s not including how many times they came to visit us.”
The organization has also created programs to help provide tools to escape the cycle of hunger, such as its “Beyond Food” program.
“That helps people with resume writing, job searches, safety tickets,” Bencz said. “We had to put a bit of a freeze on that and start doing it virtually during COVID-19.”
Bencz said there is more work to be done on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic
“Time can be one of our most precious gifts,” she said. “People come in and volunteer year after year and supported our work.”
The food bank will be sharing stories from the past 40 years here.
If you’d like to make a donation to Edmonton’s Food Bank, click here.