‘Whatever we can do to support normalcy:’ Food banks prepare for Thanksgiving

The vice-chair of Edmonton’s food bank says he decided to take matters onto his own land when COVID-19 shut down Alberta in March.

The uncertainty of how food banks would operate and an unprecedented spike in demand prompted David Benjestorf to decide he would farm just over nine hectares he had purchased six years ago on the western edge of St. Albert, Alta.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, Benjestorf says he’s donating some of the 43,000 kilograms of food he harvested on his farm this month in an attempt, along with food banks across the country, to re-create some sense of normalcy for families who may need it for the fall holiday.

“It was an escape for us to go out to the farm, and have a semi-normal life,” Benjestorf, who also works as a lawyer, said in a phone interview.

“Out in the fresh air, getting your hands dirty … that normalcy was a gift.”

Benjestorf’s fresh carrots, cucumbers, corn, radishes, kale, and assortment of lettuces are being delivered to families this weekend, said the spokeswoman for the food bank.

The “normalcy” during chaos is what the food bank is also hoping to provide as families facing economic hardship gather in their bubbles around the dinner table on Monday, said Tamisan Bencz-Knight.

“Whatever we can do to support whatever normalcy we can within the household, especially people that are struggling right now, we think is good in and of itself,” Bencz-Knight said.

She said the food bank has had to scramble to readjust the way it hands out food during the COVID-19 pandemic as demand has hit record-breaking numbers and distribution has had to adhere to public health orders.

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government is doubling $100 million in previously announced aid for the country’s food banks. As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, he said, food banks will be under more pressure to feed those who can’t afford groceries, or are unable or afraid to venture out of their homes to get them.

Statistics Canada says food insecurity in households across the country has been significantly higher during COVID-19 and has affected nearly one in seven Canadians.

“This is based on a scale of six food experiences, ranging from food not lasting before there was money to buy more, to going hungry because there was not enough money for food,” the agency says.

A report published by Toronto-based Daily Bread Food Bank in September says that since the start of the pandemic, visits to food banks in that city have increased by almost 25 per cent.

“Prior to the pandemic there were an average of about 15,000 visits to Daily Bread member food banks per week, and now that average has climbed to close to 20,000,” the report says.

March was also a record-breaking month for Edmonton’s Food Bank as up to 25,000 people were given their food hampers, said Bencz-Knight.

“The sad thing is that we’ve had a lot of disasters recently,” she said.

“We’ve had tornadoes … fires, floods, and then more fires. In a way, those disasters were little sprints. It’s the same thing that we’ve experienced right now, except this is (a) marathon.”

Bencz-Knight, Benjestorf and Calgary’s largest church, Centre Street Church, are reminding Canadians ahead of Thanksgiving to donate as much as they can because demand for food continues to grow.

The church has announced it’s expanding its Central Campus for better food distribution to meet increased need.

Chris Hatch, CEO of Food Banks Canada, is also reminding Canadians that Thanksgiving is the time many food banks would usually hold food drives across the country.

He is encouraging Canadians to call their local food bank and ask them how they can help.

“If you can afford to make a donation, please do so.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cilantro and Chive was voted in the top three in no less than 13 different categories in the 2020 Best of Lacombe Readers Choice Awards. Photo by Megan Roth/Lacombe Express
Cilantro and Chive opening in Red Deer

There will now be two Cilantro and Chive locations. The restaurant announced… Continue reading

People wear face masks as they wait to enter a store in Montreal on October 24, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canadian provinces hardest hit by COVID-19 reach sobering milestones

MONTREAL — The Canadian provinces hardest hit by the global COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal study details workers hit hardest by tax, benefit system for extra earnings

OTTAWA — Newly released documents show Finance Department officials calculated that workers… Continue reading

Cenovus. (The Canadian Press)
Cenovus to buy Husky Energy in deal valued at $23.6B, company will remain in Alberta

CALGARY — Cenovus Energy Inc. is buying Husky Energy Inc. in an… Continue reading

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 10:49… Continue reading

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
John Horgan says he will work across party lines to find ideas that work for B.C.

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s election results show a divided province with Liberal… Continue reading

President Donald Trump gestures from the top of the steps of Air Force 1 at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. When people in the United States talk about moving to Canada to escape four more years of Donald Trump, it’s usually either a punchline or a pipe dream. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Susan Walsh
Move to Canada? A pipe dream for some Americans is a parachute for Canadian expats

WASHINGTON, Wash. — When people in the United States talk about moving… Continue reading

The Cogeco logo is seen in Montreal on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

TORONTO — Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world… Continue reading

President Donald Trump, left, and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Stock market investors are breathing a little easier despite potentially facing higher taxes as the possibility of a contested U.S. presidential election appears to be fading, say investment experts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Patrick Semansky
Markets concerns about contested U.S. election fading with Biden lead in polls

TORONTO — Stock market investors are breathing a little easier despite potentially… Continue reading

(File photo)
Ontario records more than 1,000 new daily COVID-19 cases for first time

Ontario is reporting more than 1,000 mew daily cases of COVID-19 for… Continue reading

Pope Francis delivers his message during the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope names 13 new cardinals, includes US Archbishop Gregory

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Sunday named 13 new cardinals, including… Continue reading

Dave Mercer, President of Unifor Local 2121, overlooks Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Terra Nova floating production vessel that is anchored there on Friday, October 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
As N.L.’s oil industry sputters, the emotional toll of the cod moratorium looms large

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Dave Mercer spent the early 1990s roaming around… Continue reading

Most Read