Gleaning food for 36 years

The Edmonton Food Bank has been a cornerstone of our community for the past 36 years. While most people probably associate the Food Bank with their hamper program, it actually started in 1981 as the Edmonton Gleaners Association. Since then its size and scope has changed significantly, but they still glean about 80 percent of their food from various sources in the community.

“I think most people think of the Food Bank from special events and food drives, so they think the food we’re distributing is all canned and packaged food,” Marjorie Bencz says. “Whereas the reality is the vast majority of the food we distribute is from the food industry or food supplies, growers, producers – that type of thing.”

Bencz has been the executive director of the Edmonton Food Bank for 28 years. She’s one of the panelists at the upcoming Cultivating Connections event, where she’ll be talking about how the Food Bank operates, especially the many sources of their gleaned food. The Food Bank receives lots of food from grocery stores and other large commercial operations that is unsalable but perfectly fine to eat, such as mislabelled items or simply overstock.

The Food Bank also has a number of programs to glean food, including Alberta Hunters Who Care, which asks Alberta hunters to share their harvest of deer, elk and moose, and Plant a Row, Grow a Row, in which gardeners can donate some of their homegrown fruits and veggies.

Another source of gleaned food comes from the service industry through the Food Bank’s Second Helping program. This is surplus food that was prepared in the service industry but not served.

“Second Helping is part of, again, that gleaning operation.” Bencz says. “We’ve been working with larger donors to gather some of that food. They’ve been great donors in that they flash-freeze the product in food grade containers and then give it to us to use in soup kitchens and shelters and that type of facility.”


Demand is still very high for the Food Bank’s services: the hamper programs alone reach over 20,000 people each month. “In 2016 we gave out more food than we brought in, most months,” Bencz says. She also notes that the numbers for their soup kitchens and shelter facilities were high at their annual count in March 2016; she expects that to be the case in March 2017 as well.

“Having said that, people have been very kind and very generous to us,” Bencz says. “People can support us by becoming more aware of the work that we do. If they know of sources of food that we can pick up from, they can contact us.”


For more information on the Edmonton Food Bank, visit their website.

For more information and to register for Cultivating Connections, click here.

Tweet your food questions to #AskEFC and #Cultivate2017 or email them to Three Alberta mayors (including Edmonton’s Don Iveson) will be answering your questions at Let’s Talk Food, the free opening event of Cultivating Connections.



One thought on “Gleaning food for 36 years

  1. Elaine Sim says:

    This is very interesting. How was the Edmonton Gleaner’s association founded? Who’s brain child? Was it from another organization like a religious charity or was it a municipal government initiative? I’m also curious about who is eligible to receive food packages and how that is monitored for abuse.


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