Wood Buffalo Food Bank delays spring food drive

·3 min read

The leadership of the Wood Buffalo Food Bank says delaying its annual spring food drive will not hurt its ability to meet growing demands for food in the community.

Dan Edwards, executive director of the food bank, said staff delayed the food drive following public health restrictions announced on April 6. As active COVID-19 cases in Fort McMurray climb faster than they did in previous waves, Edwards said the event was too risky to hold.

“There’s just so many factors there that you have to consider,” said Edwards. “We didn’t feel it was prudent to be adding another level that could impact everyone’s overall safety.”

Edwards said the food bank has enough food to keep client services operating normally. Much of the current stock is from smaller events and donations following last year’s flood.

Without those donations, Edwards said this year would have been difficult after the Christmas food drive smashed financial goals but hit 10 per cent of food donation goal.

“The spring food drive was brought into existence because our stocks that we get at Christmas were not lasting as long as they needed to,” said Edwards.

When Edwards started at the food bank 10 years ago, the Christmas food drive provided 50 per cent of the year’s food. Now, Edwards said the Christmas food drive has provided only 30 per cent of food for the year.

Edwards is hoping to hold a food drive sometime in June. The donation goal will be 50,000 pounds of food and $30,000 in financial donations.

Grocery stores are still accepting donations. The food bank is also taking new volunteers on a more controlled basis. Available shifts can be booked online.

“At the end of the day, we do need to have this happen,” said Edwards. “We’ve just been in the scramble of so much constant change and it’s actually really difficult to stay on top of.”

Edwards said demand for food services has remained high since the pandemic began last March. The food bank has seen the number of new monthly clients slow down. The food bank was averaging 50 new monthly clients at this time last year. Edwards said that number hovers around 30 clients.

Much of this is because of the loss of refrigeration units in last year's flood. The food bank has stopped giving perishable items that need refrigeration, such as meat or dairy, to clients. Many clients are booking fewer appointment times because they are holding onto canned goods longer.

The food bank's new downtown location on Centennial Drive will have refrigeration units and Edwards said this could cause more new clients to register.

“I would hope to see it go down a bit more but I do think we’ll see an increase in overall numbers again,” he said.

Edwards predicts the new building will be open by spring.

swilliscraft@postmedia.com

Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today