The Canadian Red Cross has contributed $2.44 million to support more than a dozen food banks impacted by the wildfires in May, with $1.2 million donated directly to the Wood Buffalo Food Bank in Fort McMurray.
The funds covered the immediate and critical short-term response costs absorbed by food banks when they provided food and support to evacuees across the province.
“At least 26 food banks around the province provided food directly or indirectly to evacuees immediately following the evacuation and during the weeks following the fire. More than half of those submitted requests for funding assistance,” said Stephanie Rigby, executive director of Food Banks Alberta, the provincial association of food banks.
“Food banks provide an essential service in ongoing recovery efforts in emergency situations and we are pleased that the Canadian Red Cross recognizes the work these charities did on the ground,” said Ms. Rigby. “Food banks have always stepped up to support people in need. It’s what they do.”
Many food banks were directly impacted by this disaster and provided emergency food to displaced residents who landed in their communities temporarily. Food Banks Alberta offered financial support through Red Cross Emergency funding to all of those food banks.
The Wood Buffalo Food Bank re-opened in June but had to dispose of all its perishable and frozen food as well as more than 50,000 kg of non-perishable food. Since it re-opened in June, the food bank limited hampers to 150 per day because of increased demand. The food bank returned to normal operations on Sept. 6.
“This type of large donation gave our organization and others within our network the freedom to focus on what was most important; the services of people,” said Arianna Johnson, executive director of the Wood Buffalo Food Bank and chairperson of Food Banks Alberta
“Without this kind of large scale support to our network these food banks, including my own, would have been burdened with insurmountable need and no resources to meet that need.”
“The Canadian Red Cross recognizes the increased demand that is placed on local food banks as a result of emergency situations or disasters,” said Jenn McManus, Vice President, Canadian Red Cross, Alberta and North West Territories.
“Thanks to the generous support of more than one million people across Canada, one of the ways the Red Cross is able to help meet the immediate needs of the people affected by the Alberta fires is by financially assisting Alberta Food Banks in providing urgently needed food to thousands of people affected by the disaster.”
Since reopening June 11, 2016 the Wood Buffalo Food Bank has provided hampers to 2,861 households feeding 7,144 people. In any other 2-month period the food bank would normally provide hampers to between 900 and 1,000 households serving approximately 1,850 people.
For more than a month, the provincial office coordinated dozens of food shipments in partnership with its larger member food banks to ensure food banks in critical areas had enough food on hand to support the evacuees. Food was also shipped to many of the evacuation centers.
“Our strong network of food banks was able to quickly mobilize and coordinate deliveries of food to where it was needed the most,” said Ms. Rigby. Food banks across the province came together to support evacuees and each other.