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Wood Buffalo Food Bank

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WHY SHOULD YOU CARE ABOUT THE WOOD Buffalo Food Bank? Because you just might be one paycheque away from using it. That’s right. Not thinking about hunger, and going to bed with a full belly are two of the many things we take for granted.  But, as the holidays approach, you can make a difference. Donate. Volunteer. Care.

The Wood Buffalo Food Bank is a non-profit organization funded through individual and corporate donations. It has been operating for almost 30 years in Fort McMurray. 

Arianna Johnson, Executive Director, Wood Buffalo Food Bank, says there are misconceptions about the food bank that need to be addressed.

“The first one is people driving brand new Hummers take food from here. Secondly, the staff takes half the food home and third, we are funded by the United Way. None of these are true,” she explains.

Located on King Street, the facility uses the client-based system. This means those in need have to take the initiative to either refer themselves, or go through an agency. Proper documentation is required to prove eligibility.  This includes work and home information as well as monthly expenses. Additionally, clients can use the Food Bank every 30 days only and need to book an appointment in advance. The group does not do same-day appointments.

The Food Bank uses hampers to allot food.  Different categories include single, double, small family, large, and 24-hour hamper. 

“The double hamper feeds two people; the small family up to four and the large hamper can feed seven people.  Our 24-hour hamper is for emergencies and feeds two to three people through a weekend. It is distributed through the Salvation Army and the soup kitchen,” explains Johnson, who joined the Food Bank in April 2011.

From 2010 to 2011 the Food Bank has seen a 13.91 per cent increase in clients. Last year, a total of 1,387 hampers were distributed.  As of May 2012, 483 hampers have been provided to 713 adults, many of whom are working; and to 492 children for a total of 1,205 individuals.

Johnson says people should care about the Food Bank because “food is a basic necessity. Without it, we can’t do anything else.”

“Imagine how hard it is to concentrate when your stomach is rumbling, or you have hunger pains.  Now imagine being a child and trying to learn in school while hungry,” she notes.

Now imagine your own child, niece, or nephew who is going hungry, and has never known what a barbecue tastes like, or what a birthday party feels like, or a Christmas dinner for that matter, adds Johnson.

Volunteering at the Food Bank is easy. They accommodate your schedule, and only ask for 24-hour advance notice.  Men especially can enjoy weighing, sorting, organizing, and stocking shelves. Then there’s picking up items from grocery stores, landscaping, and building sundry items.

“Our male volunteers enjoy the physical work; and our hours are conducive to shift-work also,” notes Johnson.

The Food Bank requires not only food, but cash donations as well.  Gift cards are also welcome.

“We have bills. We pay our staff, and for electricity, garbage removal and also purchase food, such as perishable items,” continues Johnson.

Special dietary requests can be made in advance, and the Food Bank does its best to accommodate those.  Food is also purchased from farmers and gardeners.

And at the end of the day, Johnson says, when it comes to donations, just remember, “if you won’t eat it, don’t give it to us.  That’s just a respect thing. Everyone likes Kraft dinner once in a while, or tomato soup, but we can’t nourish our children on both.  Our needs list is on Facebook and Twitter and every Tuesday in the Fort McMurray Today.”

If you wish to make a difference, remember two important dates: The Wood Buffalo Food Bank Corporate Challenge will be on November 29. The three-day Food Drive will be from November 30 to December 2.

The Food Bank can be reached by calling 780-743-1125. It is open until 8:00 p.m. on Mondays to serve clients after-hours.


  • As of April 2012, 370 volunteer hours in total devoted to the Food Bank
  • More than 50 per cent of volunteers are men
  • $450,000 budget for 2012
  • As of May 2012, 144 single parents used the Food Bank
  • 68 out of the 1,205 hampers allotted in May 2012 were two-parent households
  • 60 couples without children used it as of May 2012
  • 257 single individuals used it as of May 2012

For 2011 Client Statistics and Food Statistics visit:

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