Taber Food Bank in 2022 and what they have ongoing for 2023

As Albertans continue to face inflation, more and more families will continue to struggle to make ends meet, but despite this, Taber does have a safety net in the form of the Taber Food Bank. Craig Hansen, of the Food Bank Board and Naomi Wiebe, manager of the food bank, spoke about how they support the community and how they were able to keep their doors open for fundraising. They started things off by reflecting on their first major event of the year which was the Coldest Night of the Year.

“We started the year good in February,” said Hansen. “We had the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser and had support from the community. It was a good fundraiser. We have it coming up again this year.”

“On Saturday, February 25 is our Coldest Night of the Year again (for 2023),” said Wiebe. “So, we’re looking for volunteers and walkers for that.” After discussing the Coldest Night of the Year, Wiebe and Hansen proceeded to discuss the ongoing vegetable garden. “Other events of the year, we had a food drive and in June Stuff-a-Bus with the grocery stores — good sup- port there,” said Hansen. “The community garden project brought in a lot of produce again.”

“The community vegetable garden did really well this year,” said Wiebe. “We shared produce from it all across the province. Some of it ended up in Leduc and up in Lethbridge. All over the place — all is good.”

From there, the two went into broad strokes highlighting some of the other fundraisers they have done throughout the year.

“Cornfest, the 50-50 was a sellout again,” said Hansen. “Another good fundraiser for us, also time to mingle and associate with the community. From their September door-to-door food drive, lots of support for people canvassing, lots of community support of people giving. December, we go back to another Stuff-a-Bus food drive at the grocery store. With support from the schools manning the tables and the buses, food is being donated there. Probably one of the biggest things is volunteers. Volunteers support us in all the activities. The fundraising, the door-to-door food drive, and the volunteers come in here every day and work.”

Finally, to wrap up the look back on the previous year, Hansen and Wiebe continue to comment on their volunteer support, as well as how the use of the food bank had an uptick.

“We have really good volunteer support,” said Wiebe. “We have volunteers that come in. They kind of select the day and they come in every week and they help us. We have some that come in and make sandwiches, and we have somebody come in and help organize, clean, or help make hampers. We really rely on them.”

“Usage is up,” added Hansen. “There are more people utilizing the food bank. The money we raise and the food that we bring in is going quicker.”

“We had good support this year,” said Wiebe. “It was a little bit slow for donations throughout the summer, but towards the end of the year, our community is really supportive and the value the food bank provides. We’re starting the year off on a good foot I think.”

Moving on to look at events that will be occurring this year, Hansen once again emphasized the importance of their February event which is a two to five-kilometre winter walk that will be occurring at 5 p.m. Wiebe also briefly talked about some of the essentials that they were low on.

“Well, as we mentioned, the Coldest Night of the Year, is coming up this year. We are certainly in need of sponsors and walkers for fundraising,” said Hansen. “It’s still a month away, so there’s time for that. There are needs for volunteers on a semi-regular basis.”

“Some volunteers at the facility, if anybody wants to, they can contact the office and right now we are short on beef and pork for a protein program,” said Wiebe. “If any farmers want to donate something, we will gladly accept that.”

From here both briefly talked about how they are entertaining the idea of expanding the food bank.

“Some people said we need a bigger food bank,” said Hansen.

“We have started the very tentative talks on what that might look like, but no plans as of right now,” said Wiebe.

“Set aside some of the fundraising towards something in the future yeah, but right now there’s not really money to expand,” said Hansen.

“We have to focus on making sure that everyone gets fed and not necessarily upgrading,” said Wiebe. “The day-to-day need is more important.”

Finally, Wiebe and Hansen discussed how they are looking for more people to assist the food bank, but not just as volunteers.

“The annual AGM should be in March this year,” said Hansen. “We are looking for some additional board members from the community. There is room for some additional board members to come on and help.”

“The role of a board member would be to attend our board meetings once a month and help us at some of the events, fundraising, and spreading information about the food bank to community members that they are familiar with,” said Wiebe.

If you’re interested in joining the Taber Food Bank as a volunteer, or interested in potentially becoming a board member, you can call them at 403-223-1833. If you’re interested in participating either as a walker or a sponsor for the Coldest Night of the Year, you can go to cnoy.org for more information.

Ian Croft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Taber Times