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Edmonton’s Food Bank continues to face high demand, Edmonton Elks lend helping hand

Edmonton’s Food Bank continues to face high demand, Edmonton Elks lend helping hand

Edmonton Elks player Kony Ealy, part  of this year's Purolator Tackle Hunger team ambassadors, lends a hand during a visit to Edmonton's Food Bank on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022.
Edmonton Elks player Kony Ealy, part of this year’s Purolator Tackle Hunger team ambassadors, lends a hand during a visit to Edmonton’s Food Bank on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. Photo by Greg Southam /Postmedia

Edmonton Elks players and staff gave a helping hand Thursday afternoon as Edmonton’s Food Bank continues to face a sky-high demand for its hamper program.

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Tamisan Bencz-Knight, manager of strategic relationships and partnerships with the food bank, said the hamper program served 36,000 people in August, 40 per cent of whom were children.

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“You’re talking about 14,000 children needing our food and help in one month,” she said.

“Our costs are going up, our clients are feeling the pinch, our donors feel the pinch, as well as those individuals who may not have needed us right away because they were making it, now they’re actually needing our support. It’s not a pretty picture out there right now.”

Bencz-Knight said the hamper program is serving about double the number of people it was serving two years ago and currently serves more people than the population of Leduc.

She pointed to inflation, the economy and the pandemic as reasons for the increased usage and need for the program.

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The Elks were helping put hampers together on Thursday, something Bencz-Knight said is important.

“It means that we’re not alone. It means that we’re not this island trying to do it by ourselves,” said Bencz-Knight.

“It means that all this beautiful fresh stuff coming from people’s gardens, from the retail food industry, from public donations, is able to be moved out. We can’t do that alone.”

Kony Ealy, defensive lineman for the Elks, was one player helping at the food bank on Thursday.

“I think that it’s very important that we have more of this going on here in Edmonton, not just in Edmonton, around the region, I think it’s very important, especially for families in need,” said Ealy.

“I think it shows the community that we care. It shows other places that we care about our home and the people here, the people that make up us. So, just getting out here and being active.”

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Ealy encouraged fans to bring what they can and donate food items at the Purolator Tackle Hunger game on Saturday, Oct. 1 kicking off at 2 p.m.

Bencz-Knight said the food bank will take in donations as fans enter the game and that they will accept a variety of items.

“Tomato and mushroom soup is perfect because you can add pasta to it, you can make casseroles … canned meat, peanut butter, pasta, pasta sauces, all those items are wonderfully received and gratefully received,” she said, adding donations can also be dropped off at major grocery stores throughout the city.

“You can even look at cereals. Ask your kids, go shopping with your kids and fill a bag and ask them to pick out their favourite items and make it a family thing.”

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Bencz-Knight said she is grateful for organizations like the Elks and acknowledges the team has been involved with Edmonton’s Food Bank since the 1980s.

Donations help the food bank serve the community, however, Bencz-Knight said it will take time for the demand to decrease.

“If we go backwards in our history, in 1996 we were serving 19,500 people, you fast forward to 2008 and we were doing really well here in Alberta, we were serving 9,500 people per month,” she said.

“Now we’re talking over 30,000 and up to 36,000. The need is great, it did take us 12 years to drop 10,000 people from the food program, so we will be the last to recover from all this.”

Bencz-Knight said those interested in volunteering can visit and click on the “volunteer today” button to start getting trained.

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