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Innisfail food bank trudges on during toughest of times

Agency is seeing biggest demand for service since it began more than three decades ago with 230 citizens relying on it every month.

INNISFAIL – Donations to the Innisfail and District Food Bank are going strong as the local agency bravely trudges forward during what is considered its most challenging time in its 35-year history.

“We're in actually excellent shape as far as supplies. The donations were absolutely fabulous over November and December, and then into January,” said Heather Taylor, the agency’s co-coordinator, noting the huge donation from the Jan. 6 Battle of the Badges hockey game that raised $6,038 and 1,487 pounds of food for food bank.

That was on top of the 542.2 pounds of food and nearly $4,000 cash from December’s 26th annual Innisfail RCMP Charity Check Stop, and the 691 pounds and $3,500 from the return of the CP Holiday Train on Dec. 10.

Both high profile events were the recipients of kindness from the Kneehill Valley 4-H Beef Club who helped load and unload the food donations.

“Our hockey tournaments continue to donate,” added Taylor. “It seems like every week we have another fairly large donation, like last week when the under 15s had their tournament.”

She said the recent Innisfail Minor Hockey Association donation from the U15 tourney was 549 pounds of food. The food bank also received a $570 donation from the Innisfail Art Club last fall.

She added her agency was greatly helped with public support to finally get a new commercial refrigerator. It was purchased and delivered last December for $4,700; money that was received through donations, including $1,300 from the Town of Innisfail.

The commercial refrigerator has already proven to be a big boost for needy families.

“A lot of it is for lunch stuff for kids. They have fresh yogurt. They have cheese snacks, and we usually have lunch meat,” said Taylor. “It’s made a big difference for families. All of that stuff is so expensive.”

Taylor emphasized she’s elated with individual donations from Innisfailians who have eagerly responded to the growing need in the community caused by a prolonged recession made worse by the pandemic.

“Our individual donors have absolutely been fabulous. Our donations are up 20 per cent year over year,” said Taylor.

However, she added clientele numbers have also increased 23 per cent over the same period, a need she believes is the highest the food bank has ever seen since it opened for the community in 1987.

“I haven't done the stats for January. It looks like January was even higher as far as the need and the numbers,” said Taylor.

She said the estimated number of citizens the food bank in Innisfail is serving is 230 a month between July 1 and Dec. 21 of 2022.

However, Taylor added her agency is still receiving ongoing once-a-month support from the Leduc warehouses of Alberta Food Banks.

She added the provincial government has stepped up its grant support since December with its new Supporting Food Security for Albertans program. She said the Innisfail food bank was successful in obtaining a large “five-figure” grant under the new two-year provincial initiative.

“That is a boost for all of us,” said Taylor, adding her agency is also applying for another provincial grant that matches individual donations. She said her agency will be notified this month if they qualify.

With the recent good news of unprecedented community and provincial support Taylor said she expects food bank shelves will be stocked full until “probably” until the end of March and into early April.

“We should be fine,” said Taylor. “After that, I guess we'll see.”

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