Edmonton’s Food Bank and her Volunteers Tackle Food Insecurity: YegWatch Episode 2
'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' Jesus Christ Matthew 25:40
Many organizations rely on the power of their volunteers to operate successfully in the community. Volunteering for any cause does something to our mental health, making us happier in the process. Volunteering enables us to help the less fortunate or those without a voice, we help the environment when we volunteer, we also gain confidence in our ability to work with others and in our own self esteem. For some, volunteering helps them to enhance their CV, gain an accreditation, develop existing skills and knowledge and volunteering is an opportunity to get to know the local community and the gaps that needs to be filled.
Last week, was my first time volunteering with the Edmonton Food Bank. The hours I spent there inspired this write up. The first space in which I volunteered was the first layer in the food box. Here, I mean spaghetti, sauce, tuna, baked beans – a total of seven items. It made me reflect on the time of my life when I lived on the supplies from the Food Bank. I observed that every item that goes into the Food Box had been carefully thought of.
Food insecurity is still an issue in Edmonton in 2021. As most migrants understand that food insecurity occurs when individuals or families lack access to food due to financial, physical or social barriers. The reasons why some people are food insecure are complex. The pandemic only exacerbated those struggling with marginal, moderate and severe bouts of food insecurity.
Who needs help?
An Alberta Health Services document identifies that people from low income households, individuals who rent rather than own their homes, lone parents, especially lone female parents, individuals who receive social assistance, unattached single people, women and households with children younger than 18 years old are vulnerable to food insecurity. The same document identifies recent immigrants, recent refugees who have been in Canada for 10 years or less, people who have a disability, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations, workers who experience limited employment due to racial discrimination and homeless populations may be at a higher risk of experiencing household food insecurity than others.
Some of the hungry people who depend on the Edmonton’s Food Bank are African migrants who drive fancy cars and live in nice houses. One of them is a friend of mine, who lost her job due to the pandemic and struggled to feed her three children. In some cases, she said to me, she had to choose between paying her mortgage and putting food on the table.
The Happy Family
What I observed with the volunteers was that every box was assembled with love.
Every item chosen with affection for the client. The eggs, hot chocolate, mac and cheese, peanut butter, cereal, snacks for children, vegetables and all the components in the box have been carefully packaged as items of necessity. The work at the Food Bank is detailed. There are sections within that caters for boxes for diabetics, people who need protein , families with infants and so on. The level of organizational structure is superior and the generosity of the provisions brought tears to my eyes.
This is what the Edmonton Food Bank has done since its formation in 1981. I can honestly say that Edmonton’s Food Bank has been true to its mission ” to collect food in order to feed those in need within the city”. With over 4.8 million kilograms of food coming in and out of the organization each year, I dare say there is a comraderies between the volunteers as well. In March 2021, the Food Bank hit the highest record of people receiving a hamper. A whooping 28,000 people received an hamper. They receive over 66,000 calls for help annually and out of this number, 40% are for children.
Each volunteer comes to the Edmonton’s Food Bank for a reason. I worked on the assembly line with someone who had to spend twenty hours at the Food Bank because his sentence was commuted to community service. I spoke with another man who was putting in the hours so he could request a letter that might help him find work in the city as a new immigrant. Other volunteers may have benefitted from the services of the Food Bank previously and their volunteer hours was to show their gratitude. Last week was National Volunteer week, the Edmonton Food Bank went out of its way to recognize the work of their volunteer force. It is understood that without the volunteers, it would be impossible to be the breadbasket of the city.
How do they do it?
Edmonton’s Food Bank spends about $1,000,000 worth of food. This is true as much of the food we packaged was brand new. They were meals in boxes we had to open. The Edmonton’s Food Bank is more than food. They are a community hub structured to carry you in the worst seasons in your life. Whether it is literacy support you need, employment preparation, financial and tax services, practical resources and personal supports, the Edmonton Food Bank has something for you.
A look around the city
It is unclear how aggressive the problem of food insecurity is in the city. Different organizations across the city provide culturally sensitive food to their members, an example is the Nile Valley Initiative at the African Center. This project was funded by the Edmonton Community Foundation and ten other organizations. Together, they provided food for Edmonton’s immigrant communities at the height of the pandemic. It is thought that the Food Initiative at the African Center is an ongoing process.
Food insecurity is likely going to remain a problem in the city for the foreseeable future with high unemployment rates and staggering rates of undocumented individuals who are unable to access any support. Our job here here was to highlight the significance of the Edmonton’s Food Bank and the fact that they push hunger weeks away by the food boxes they deliver.
Volunteering at the Food Bank was physically demanding but in many ways, it was also deeply rewarding. For those amongst us, who have have never volunteered, try it. It may do you some good. My experience encouraged me to want to give more hours of my time…. I will.
Every volunteer makes a difference.
To access the Edmonton’s Food Bank: please call 780.425.4190
Tee Adeyemo writes for LCCMedia