Not surprisingly, Taber Food Bank has been quite busy in 2023. According to Naomi Wiebe, Director of the Taber Food Bank, the organization was given the opportunity to apply for a Food Bank Grant of $8,000 by December 1, 2023 after being informed on November 8, 2023 that they were able to submit a grant application. 

The funding, Wiebe says, is being distributed through Family and Community Support Services Association of Alberta (FCSSAA), and will be deposited directly to the food bank once the application is approved. 

“The funding will be used in the provision of food to individuals and families in need of assistance,” said Wiebe. 

Wiebe says that Taber Food Bank offers two programs to help households that are food vulnerable. 

“The first program is our food rescue program, also known as the Pickshelf, or Help Yourself Shelf, where individuals are able to self shop from the selection of items available, which may include bread and baked goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and non-perishable items,” said Wiebe. “Our second program is our hamper program. The purpose of a food hamper is to provide eligible families with 5-7 days’ worth of food. Registered households take home two boxes of food, which is based on the number of individuals in the household. One box includes a variety of non-perishables, including but not limited to soups, pasta, cereal, canned meat, et cetera. The second box contains items such as frozen meat, vegetables and potato products, cheese, milk, and eggs. We also do our best to help those who visit our programs with other needs they may have, such as referring them to other agencies.” 

Wiebe says that the work with other agencies may include include referrals, sharing food to help extend their reach, or providing information on their programs. 

“In the past we have provided food and milk to schools in our area, and shared with the local women’s shelter (Safe Haven) and other agencies,” said Wiebe. “We have two programs with the Taber Public Library, sharing excess items such as bread for them to make sandwiches for children that attend the library, and offering items to individuals who may be unable to access food directly from the food bank. We also work with them on a hygiene program.” 

The Taber Food Bank, Wiebe says, does not receive any guaranteed funding; everything they do is through grants, fundraisers, donations, and community supports and they are always so grateful to the generous support from the community. 

“We do multiple fundraising events,” said Wiebe. “Our biggest fundraising event, Coldest Night of the Year, is coming up on February 24, 2024. Coldest Night of the Year is a winter family-friendly walk to help raise money for people experiencing hurt, hunger, and homelessness. We also have in-store fundraisers, traditionally on the first Tuesday of June, and another the first Tuesday of December. Our organization is very lucky to have the support of our local grocery stores, IGA and Co-op, for these events. Community members and students volunteer to help us collect food and monetary donations for these food drives. For the second year, we also have been offered the chance by Spider Entertainment to have a 50/50 at Cornstock in July. In August, we have 50/50 and Plinko at Cornfest. Plinko is a fun game for the youth to participate and win prizes. September is our red bag door-to-door food drive, where individuals and groups go door to door in Taber and Barnwell to collect donations. This year, Taber Tim Hortons chose us as their charity partner for the Holiday Smile Cookie campaign.” 

Wiebe says that the Taber Food Bank could not do the work that they do without the help of their volunteers. Wiebe says that the Taber Food Bank loves their volunteers and one of them has been with the organization since it was started over 23 years ago while many others have been involved with it between five to 15 years. The volunteers, according to Wiebe, help with many tasks including driving to pick up donations, making sandwiches, helping sort and organize food, and making hampers. 

“We generally run with four part time staff, so without our volunteers, it would be much more difficult to operate,” said Wiebe. “We are so grateful for any help we can receive, whether by volunteering, or through physical or monetary donations. We appreciate any help that we receive.” 

Wiebe says that many factors, including higher utility bills, may affect food bank usage during the winter months. Increased costs during the holiday season, and additional expenses such as gifts, also may affect certain socio-economic groups that strains their monthly budgets, Wiebe says. 

“Food bank usage in our community has risen over the past couple of years,” said Wiebe. “In 2021, we were giving out approximately 7,700 lbs of food through our Pickshelf program, per month. So far in 2023, we have been averaging 13,650 lbs per month. In October we saw 699 visits through this program. Households experiencing food insecurity over the past two years have risen considerably. We have seen this not only in our community, but across Alberta, and Canada. The Hunger Count report that was recently released with data compiled from March 2023 shows that in Alberta there has been a 94.1 per cent change in food bank visits from 2019-2023, 35.2 per cent of those using food banks in Alberta are children 17 years and younger.” 

For more information about the Taber Food Bank, contact (403) 223-1833 or go to https://taberfoodbank.weebly.com.

By Heather Cameron, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Dec 20, 2023 at 09:46

This item reprinted with permission from   The Taber Times   Taber, Alberta

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