Charity Spotlight: This post was provided by Bridgette Toliver at Edmonton’s Food Bank, as part of our ongoing charity spotlight series.
Years ago, I worked at numerous collection agencies. It was my job to collect outstanding debts – everything from student loans to credit cards to rent delinquencies. Most of the people I talked to with neglected accounts had every intention of paying their obligations, but life got in the way. The reasons were varied, from job loss, the death of the family income earner, an accident, or something unexpected happened in their life and they just couldn’t keep up. I wanted to help these people. I just couldn’t bring myself to threaten a single mother with a lawsuit over an outstanding debt. I was a single mother myself and I could imagine how an unexpected expense or income loss could turn my world upside down. As it turns out, my philosophy and values – which made me the world’s worst bill collector – make me a pretty good Food Banker.
In my time at Edmonton’s Food Bank, I’ve seen staff and volunteers express incredible compassion. I’ve seen a volunteer discreetly give a mom of three cab fare so she didn’t have to take the bus with 10 grocery bags and a stroller. I’ve seen an intake worker make sure a hamper has a birthday cake for that special day. I’ve seen our staff take aside an upset client to let them know they are available to chat if they want. Knowing that every day we are making a difference or making life less stressful for someone is what keeps me passionate.
People who use the food bank do so for all sorts of reasons.Our role as employees and volunteers is to simply help – with food and so much more – but never to pass judgment. More than 13,000 people use our hamper program every month, and about 40% of those are children. We use a lot of numbers to demonstrate just how necessary our food bank is to the community, but our clients are not simply statistics. They are daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, cancer survivors, trades people, artists etc. In addition to providing direct food support to individuals and families through our hamper program, we supply food to those organizations preparing meals in the community, and resources for snack and lunch programs to over 35 high risk schools in Edmonton.
When Edmonton’s Food Bank was first established 33 years ago our founders believed that one day there would be no need for a Food Bank. This unfortunately is not the case. My hope for the future is that the Food Bank can become a community hub by partnering with agencies and organizations to teach food basics like grocery shopping and meal preparation. I have a vision of the Food Bank being a special place for clients to come, where clients of all backgrounds are sharing recipes, tips, tricks and traditions related to food. If I know anything, I know that food can bring people together.
Edmonton’s Food Bank envisions a community where hunger does not exist. Thanks to the generosity of the community, we are able to provide nutritious food, free of charge, to our neighbours in need. We are also actively working with the community to find solutions to the causes of hunger. Learn more about them on their charity profile page>>