The Airdrie Food Bank is hoping to increase awareness about its programs and dispel some myths surrounding its operations with an upcoming social media and advertising campaign.
According to Lori McRitchie, executive director of Airdrie Food Bank, the charity – a non-profit organization that works to address food insecurity in Airdrie and the surrounding communities – has been hearing feedback from the community that there are some misconceptions about what the food bank is and how it operates.
“Some people believe you can only come here three times a year and that we only give Kraft Dinner and canned soup, that we only give a few things, and the food we give is past [its expiration date],” she said.
“We want to answer any issues or concerns that people are having around how we really work.”
The awareness campaign is set to run for three weeks via social media and print advertisements.
The first of the three weeks will include information on the food bank’s internal programs, while the second week will look at the organization’s external and outreach programming. The third week will focus on partnerships and collaborations the food bank has with other organizations in the community.
McRitchie added through the campaign, the organization hopes to provide information to the public to eliminate some hesitancy felt about the food bank, lack of knowledge about its operations, or stigma felt about its clientele.
“The foundation of all the work that we do as a food bank is that we facilitate goodwill in our community,” she said. “We spread the word there are people in need and the community steps up and helps people – we facilitate that.”
She added in the past, when more people lived in rural communities, neighbours usually knew one another better, and it was common to attend the same churches and community groups. She argued the shift away from that way of life has led to a lack of knowing who the vulnerable people in the community are.
“[The food bank] is like neighbours from old times where you knew somebody [who] was in trouble, you knew somebody had lost their job, or had a baby, and you would take them meals,” she said. “Food banks have stepped up and are now filling that gap.”
McRitchie added in every community in Airdrie, there are people who are struggling with food insecurity, and the food bank steps up within each of those communities to meet their needs.
“We find that people come for a time once or twice, and then they turn around and they get stronger and then they are ones that will put a can in at the grocery store,” she said. “It’s a whole community effort to care for each other.”
She added since many of the government’s COVID-19 financial support programs have tapered off, the food bank has noticed an increase in the number of people who need support.
With the holiday season around the corner, McRitchie said the Airdrie Food Bank is “busier right now than we have ever been.”
“There are other agencies in the community that have supported in the past that are not able to be as nimble as we are,” she said.
“They haven’t been able to shift and change the way they operate to meet the COVID-19 restrictions and requirements – we continue to be able to support our community because our community supports us.”
McRitchie noted that December is typically the food bank’s busiest month for demand and donations, but she added the awareness campaign is not about asking for support from the community in that regard.
“[This] is not about us asking for anything at all. We’re not looking to get support, we’re not asking for food donations, we just want to tell people what we do,” she said, adding community members who are interested in volunteering are always in high demand.
“If you want a tour or to see how we do things, you can give us a call. We’re available and open for business and willing to work with our community in any number of ways because really it's about [Airdronians] taking care of each other.”
McRitchie added the food bank’s hamper program is open to recipients once every 30 days, and a hamper contains seven to 10 days' worth of food from each food group. The hamper consists of approximately 40 to 45 per cent fresh food, with non-perishable items filling up the remainder of the hamper.
In addition, the food bank’s pantry program is a drop-in program where community members can stop by during opening hours to access food items. The food bank also offers a food recovery program involving about 70 pick-ups a week from various local businesses.
“You can come anytime we’re open, no questions asked, [besides] your first name and how many are in your family,” McRitchie said.
“You’re welcome to help yourself to items that are available through that program.”
She added the food bank is proud to partner with other agencies in the community, and to serve a wide range of communities in north Rocky View County, including Crossfield, Madden, Kathyrn, Irricana, and Beiseker.
“We are trying to reach out through our collaborations and partnerships to make sure that no one in Airdrie and area goes hungry,” she said.
Follow me on Twitter @carmenrcundy