The Alberta Government is taking action to ensure food banks across  the province have the funds to help feed the families that come through  their doors.

 On Nov. 23, the province announced it would be  providing $10 million over two years to help with the increased cost of  record inflation so food banks can procure resources to help those they  serve. The first $5 million will be distributed in the coming weeks with  the second $5 million allocated for use in the fiscal year of  2022-2023.

 “It is absolutely critical right now,” said Danielle  McIntyre, executive director at the Interfaith Food Bank. “We are  grateful for the announcement, because it is coming at a critical time  for food banks, we really need the help right now.”

 With the  announcement still in the early phase of doling out the money, McIntyre  says the funds will be used for food purchasing and operational costs.

  “There is still a lot to be unveiled to us, as to the process for  accessing the funds. Our understanding is that the first $5 million is  going to be doled out through grant applications,” said McIntyre. “We  are still waiting to hear what that looks like and what the turnaround  time will be on accessing the funds. The second $5 million is intended  to be matching community donations, which is another thing we are yet to  learn about. We are not sure if we will report back and say this is how  much was donated, or if there will be an online platform that food  banks will use to have community members donate through in order to  match. We are still waiting to hear a lot more before we see the money.”

  Noting the holidays is when we see a lot of these donations, Mac  Nichol, executive director at the Lethbridge Food Bank, says the  two-phase distribution will help with the slow times.

 “It is  smart of the government to break that $10 million up between this year  and next,” said Nichol. “We need support now, but it does look like this  (situation) is not leaving anytime soon. So having a bit of support,  even next year, will go a long way.”

 While happy for the funds, McIntyre notes a need for more solutions to ensure people are able to buy their own groceries.

  “We are hoping that there will be other announcements that identify  some long-term solutions to ensure that people will be able to buy their  own food,” said McIntyre. “It is not just a Christmas issue. This is a  trend we have been seeing for quite some time. Numbers at food banks  have been rising for quite some time. We are seeing about a 30 per cent  increase in requests for help month-over-month right now. But since  2019, food banks in Alberta have seen a 73 per cent increase on people  coming for help. This has been a long time coming and it is not specific  to the season. But it is certainly time for us to be addressing it  before food banks run out of resources.”

 With the holidays  sparking the season of giving, food banks see a large majority of  donations come in during the winter timeline.

 “We get the  majority of the funds for the food bank all within December every year,”  said Nichol. “It is nice to see, but what happens is all that money  comes in and then we have to try and parse that out throughout the whole  year, because it pretty much dries up other than that. Support to the  whole year is really important for us.”

 With added support from  the Alberta Government, food banks can continue to help serve those in  need, not just for holiday seasons but for year-long aid.

 “This  time of the year is when we really look at how much we have and how  others might not. We really try to capture that spirit of giving and  generosity during the Christmas season,” said McIntyre. “We encourage  any community member to support their Christmas Hope partner of choice  this season.”

By Ryan Clarke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Nov 29, 2022

This item reprinted with permission from   Lethbridge Herald    Lethbridge, Alberta

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