Edmonton food bank sees demand rise dramatically

The Edmonton Food Bank is seeing a dramatic increase in the number of people needing food hampers, says executive director Marjorie Bencz.

More than 20,000 people using Edmonton food bank each month

A volunteer fills food hampers. More than 20,000 people require hampers from the Edmonton Food Bank every month. (CBC)

The Edmonton Food Bank is seeing a dramatic increase in the number of people who need food hampers, says executive director Marjorie Bencz.

This July, almost 21,000 people required food hampers, a 50-per-cent increase from the almost 14,000 individuals who needed hampers in July 2015.

The food bank also has a better idea about who is using the program, after it amassed results from a survey of 500 users. The survey found that:

  • Nearly 20 per cent more users earn less than $25,000 a year.
  • About 45 per cent of users who are unemployed have been out of work for more than three years.
  • Of those who are working, almost 60 per cent are employed as part-time, casual or seasonal.

Of those who responded to the survey, nearly 31 per cent were 50 to 65 years old, a jump from 23 per cent of the total in 2015

"This group is so marginalized and chronically unemployed," Bencz said.

Beyond Food manager David Berger speaks about the program created to help bridge the services gap faced by people using the food bank. 0:47

Almost half of the people surveyed receive income support from the province, and 18.5 per cent are receiving Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped.

Those numbers are also up from 2015, when 36 per cent of respondents were on income support and 13 per cent received AISH.

Both groups need more help from the province to pay their rent and grocery bills, Bencz said.

Following the release of the survey in 2015, the food bank created Beyond Food, a program that helps clients with English and math upgrading, job search support such as resumes, interviewing skills, safety tickets, first-aid training and budgeting.

"In the survey, 75 per cent of people said they're not connected to any other service, other than the food bank," said program manager David Berger.

While the success of the program is difficult to measure, anecdotally "we do hear about people getting jobs as a result of working with us," Berger said.