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Edmonton Food Bank

Canada’s first food bank was established in Edmonton in 1981, and since then, more than 650 similar organizations have surfaced across Canada, all modeled to some degree on Edmonton’s prototype.

According to the 2004 annual report of the Edmonton Gleaners Association—Edmonton Food Bank’s founding and operating body—14,000 people are fed each month in the hamper program through 35 depots. In all, the Food Bank network exceeds 140 agencies, churches and food depots. Another 250,000 meals and snacks find their way to Edmonton’s hungry each month.

Food is provided through a combination of citizen and corporate donations, purchases, food drives, volunteer gardens and fundraising. Volunteers function as support staff and special events organizers, offering between 30,000-50,000 hours annually.

But the food bank movement is more than just the provision of food to those in want.

"By the mid-1990s," writes Kathryn A. Ivany, in her 2001 history of Edmonton’s Food Bank, Sharing the Harvest, "both American and Canadian gleaning organizations were taking stronger advocacy roles on behalf of the people they help feed. Their efforts stretched to include education of the general public about poverty and food security issues as well as education of their clients about how to access the programs from which they were entitled to receive assistance and how to meet their nutritional needs more effectively."

In 1986, the Canadian Association of Food Banks (CAFB) was formed, with 43 food banks from nine provinces accepted as members at the first meeting in November 1989. This association places a value of $4.40 on each kilogram of food donated to a food bank. By this yardstick, then, over $12.5 million of food and food-related products were distributed by Edmonton’s Food Bank in 2004.

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