Wood Buffalo Food Bank wraps up weekend drive as food insecurity a growing local crisis

The Wood Buffalo Food Bank is sending out roughly 900 hampers per month and local leaders say 2024 will get busier.

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The Wood Buffalo Food Bank raised more than $247,000 and 37,741 lbs. of food at their weekend food drive. However, this falls short of their goals of $300,000 and 80,000 lbs. of food. The food bank’s leadership says more help is needed to fight food insecurity, a problem they say is getting worse in the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo area.

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Jose Alvarado, board chair of the food bank, said in a Sunday evening statement that it’s harder to donate this year as more people worry about living costs. However, he thanked volunteers and everyone who donated to this year’s campaign.

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“We truly appreciate everyone that came to the event,” he said. “With how much the community has struggled over the past few years, we are just so grateful that we can still all come together to fight against food insecurity in our region.”

Despite the results, the food bank is still calling this weekend’s food drive a success. The same statement from the food bank points out “we are further ahead of where we started and will do as Fort McMurray does and show our resilience and continue to FeedYMM.”

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From Dec. 1 to Dec. 3, volunteers spent the day outside all grocery stores in the region collecting cash and food donations. The volunteers collected more than $34,300 and 37,731 lbs. of food from people in person. Several individuals and organizations donated a combined $212,876 at the start of the campaign on Nov. 30.

Syncrude sponsored the event, while Sentential Storage and SNF provided bags. Wilson donated trucks. Northstar Ford, which sponsors the food bank’s building, provided 15 volunteers.

“Our numbers are just through the roof,” said Dan Edwards, executive director of the food bank, in an interview before the food drive. “We’re really working hard to meet a need, but it is really taking some time.”

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In the 12 years Edwards has been with the food bank, this is the busiest he has seen demand. The food bank is sending out roughly 900 monthly hampers, he said. The rural and Indigenous communities outside Fort McMurray are also seeing growth. Conklin’s leaders say one-third to nearly half of the 178 people in the hamlet rely on the food bank. Canadian grocery prices are up 23 per cent since 2020.

Alberta announced in early November it would invest $10 million in the province’s food banks to combat the crisis. A $60,000 grant from the province has been given to Wood Buffalo Food Bank.

Otherwise, Edwards said grants for food banks are getting tight. Inflation means bulk purchases are smaller, even if those prices are subsidized. Otherwise, Edwards said grants for food banks are getting tight. Inflation means bulk purchases are smaller, even if those prices are subsidized.

“We thank the volunteers, who braved the cold and assisted us in collecting donations,” Edwards said in a Sunday statement. “We are so proud to see all of the sports teams, youth groups and families who supported us in this very important weekend.”

Monetary donations to the food bank can be made online.

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