Edmonton Gleaners Association
In keeping with Edmontons early tradition of providing food and welfare relief, a pair of
individuals met in April 1980 to discuss a social contract that would feed the hungry.
That meetingsuitably enough at Sacred Heart Churchwould lead to the establishment of the
Edmonton Gleaners Association, and later that year, the first food bank in Canada.
The word, "gleaner" derives from the phrase, "to gather by patient harvest," which is
exactly the description of the associations work in its formative years. The situation would change radically
with the collapse of Albertas economy during the 1980s and the failure of banks, a drop in the real estate and
energy markets, and the realization that even the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund was shrinking.
"The Edmonton Gleaners Associations original mandate was to salvage food products deemed
waste by the local food industry and redistribute to member agencies that offered snack or meal programs,"
writes Kathryn A. Ivany, in her 2001 history of Edmontons Food Bank, Sharing the Harvest, "By 1983,
however, as the public awareness of the Food Bank increased and the situation of many of the citys poorest
citizens worsened, the Association found itself on the front lines, providing emergency food hampers to
individuals and families."
That the continued growth in the reliance on Edmontons Food Bank can be deemed to be a
"success" is a somewhat bitter development. And that the citys food bank spawned more than 650 similar
operations throughout Canada over the past quarter-century speaks volumes to the despair still to be found
in this country.
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