CBC Turkey Drive kicks off campaign for Edmonton Food Bank

The annual CBC Turkey Drive for the Edmonton Food Bank brings hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations. According to the food bank and the Christmas Bureau, the need is even greater for families and seniors this year.

'It's a really important element of our Christmas and festive campaign and people have been very engaged'

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson joined CBC's Turkey Drive Parade on the opening day of the week-long event in 2013. (Courtesy Ian Stewart)

The CBC studios downtown are preparing for the 21st annual CBC Turkey Drive for Edmonton's Food Bank.

The drives kicks off this morning and runs until Dec. 22. Last year's event brought in an astounding $615,670.88 in donations and turkeys. 

This year's goal is set at $500,000 and the donations are already starting to roll in. 

"I'm ready to go with all of our volunteers and our staff," said Krystina Silva, senior communications officer with CBC Edmonton, who will be organizing the daily donation table at the CBC studios.

She is also arranging the noon-hour entertainment at CBC Centre Stage in Edmonton City Centre Mall East.

"The options are turkeys or cash," Silva said. "We'll take cash, cheque and credit card at CBC Edmonton, and online donations. So people can bring however many turkeys they like and however much they're willing to give over the course of the week."

The money will be presented to the Edmonton Food Bank to purchase whatever is needed.

Since 1995, the drive has raised more than $3.5 million for Edmonton-and-area food banks.  

Need even greater this year

This year the need at the Edmonton Food Bank is even greater.  A massive fire in Fort McMurray and the slowdown in the economy has seen numbers rise sharply through 2016, especially amongst young families, said the food bank's Marjorie Bencz.

Last month alone, more than 23,000 people came in to pick up food hampers, she said. 

"I love the CBC Turkey Drive and the CBC listeners because they donate what they can," said Bencz. 

"A lot of those gifts are kind contributions of $20 and $30 dollars and some of them are larger contributions and we appreciate it all."

It's not just the food bank that's bracing for higher demand this holiday season. 

The Christmas Bureau of Edmonton is expecting to help 70,000 people in need. Many of them will be families, but the agency says the number of seniors looking for help is also up this year.

"Last year we were at the 65,000 mark and it's gone up significantly," said Paula Colvin, the bureau's corporate engagement manager. "The senior requests have gone up 42 per cent."

Colvin says the bureau is encouraging anyone who can donate to consider purchasing a $100 grocery hamper, which can then be delivered to the home, allowing the donor and recipient to meet.

"Basically people adopt a family, or they adopt a senior," she said.  "We actually connect them together with our clients and then they get to deliver the hamper directly to the client family during the season.

"It's a very rewarding experience for both."

The Edmonton Christmas Bureau starts its turkey transfer this Friday, and hampers start going out this weekend.