Prairie Post (West Edition)
Biggest challenge yet to come for food banks
It’s one of the biggest challenges faced by food banks: when times are tough, people’s ability to donate declines just as the need for giving rises. While holiday generosity kept hampers stocked in December, the new year brings renewed strain.
“Donor fatigue, the economy, and increased user demand are all concerns for Alberta food banks right now,” says Jane Flower, Vice-President of Brand & Member Experience at AMA. “But we’re hoping the spirit of generosity that shone so brightly in December will continue in 2021, with Albertans doing what they can to give their neighbours a boost.”
Though experts forecasted that donations would be down last Christmas, Albertans were unflinching in opening their hearts, pantries and wallets. Fill Our Fleet, AMA’s annual campaign in support of local food banks, saw members and staff raise $237,603 and 28,493 pounds of food between Nov. 16 and Dec. 31—a historical record for the annual effort, and more than double the campaign goal.
The challenge is keeping that momentum going. For example, fully one-third of the Edmonton Food Bank’s operating budget comes from donations in the last 45 days the year.
“When the lights go down after the holidays, hunger remains a concern for our most vulnerable neighbours. Regardless of the season, Edmonton’s Food Bank continues to provide a food hamper to over 20,000 people a month,” says Tamisan Bencz-Knight, Manager of Strategic Relationships & Partnerships for the Edmonton Food Bank. “Donations of food, funds, and time keep our doors open to feed our community.”
Imagine Canada reports that 46% of charities are experiencing increased demand, even as 68% have seen a decline in donations since the pandemic’s onset.
Recognizing this challenge, AMA is committed to providing year-round giving opportunities. Online donations can be made any time through FillOurFleet. ca, with every $1 buying $5 of food for community food banks.
In addition, we’re looking at new ways to support safe giving. In 2020, for instance, we held our first contactless donation drive-thru. We also gave AMA staff the chance to donate a day of vacation pay to feed Alberta families, which raised more than $53,000.
Shawna Ogston, a spokeswoman for the Calgary Food Bank, says demand “continues to be greater this year” but that Albertans’ generosity has helped them prepare.
“Now we hope people can give the gift of their time,” says Ogston. “Volunteers are crucial to getting the food to those who need it the most.”