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Edmonton’s Food Bank celebrates 40 years serving community members

Click to play video '40 years of Edmonton’s Food Bank' 40 years of Edmonton’s Food Bank
WATCH ABOV:E Edmonton's Food Bank is celebrating a major milestone. It has now been serving the community for 40 years. Morgan Black has more on the important role it plays – Jan 16, 2021

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.

Edmonton\’s Food Bank volunteers load up a vehicle in the mid 80s. Courtesy: Edmonton's Food Bank

The organization first began when a group of inner city agencies were hoping to redirect surplus foods to people experiencing food insecurity in Edmonton.

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Read more: COVID-19 means no walking, no food donation bins at Edmonton’s Candy Cane Lane

“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.

Click to play video 'Chris Scheetz driving Zamboni from Calgary to Edmonton for food bank' Chris Scheetz driving Zamboni from Calgary to Edmonton for food bank
Chris Scheetz driving Zamboni from Calgary to Edmonton for food bank – Jul 27, 2020

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.

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She became executive director in 1989 and volunteered for the organization prior to her appointment.

Volunteers inside the Prince of Wales Armouries in 1984. Courtesy: Edmonton's Food Bank

“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.”

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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.”

Read more: Edmonton Food Bank initiative goes ‘Beyond Food’

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.”

Edmonton’s Food Bank volunteers in an undated photo. Courtesy: Edmonton's Food Bank

The food bank will be sharing stories from the past 40 years here.

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If you’d like to make a donation to Edmonton’s Food Bank, click here.