Empty Bowls returns after COVID-19 hiatus as food bank sees demand rising

Empty Bowls returns after COVID-19 hiatus as food bank sees demand rising

By Scott McLean, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Wood Buffalo Food Bank is hosting Empty Bowls, its first in-person fundraiser, on Sunday after the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled some of the organization’s fundraisers and pushed others online. The annual event will be held at the Fort McMurray Heritage Shipyard.

The annual event serves food to people with custom bowls made by the Fort McMurray Potters Guild and painted by Color Me Mine. In 2019, the event raised more than $22,000 for the food bank. Last year’s event was one of three annual fundraisers WBFB cancelled. The pandemic’s impacts on planning and logistics means this year’s event will be a stripped-down version, said WBFB spokesperson Anna Noble.

“I’m calling this one a taster,” said Noble. “We just want to see people again and be able to fundraise. We don’t have a specific target, we’re just happy to be out in the community.”  

Demand is rising after a brief lull in August. Only 397 hampers were distributed, down from a monthly average of 600 hampers. Noble attributes this to the late installation of refrigeration units at the food bank’s new location on Centennial Drive.

“There were a lot of clients waiting for those services to be offered again,” she said. “Non-perishable items are generally cheaper, so they are able to purchase their own and have them last longer.”  

But for most of the past 18 months, demand has soared for the food bank. Numbers started rising in early 2020 when global oil prices dropped, followed by the economic fallout of the pandemic and then the April 2020 floods. 

The organization feeds roughly 18,000 families annually. Last year, more than 1.1 million pounds of food was distributed. The food bank moved into its new location in July, which is larger than its King Street location that was damaged in the April 2020 flood. Staff and volunteers worked from warehouses in Gregoire and Thickwood during the interim.

This item is reprinted with permission from the Fort McMurray, AB, Fort McMurray Today. For the complete article, click HERE

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