The Innisfail and District Food Bank has jumped on board with the Alberta Shares program, the first agency of its kind in the province to do so since the initiative was rebranded and expanded last November.
Alberta Shares, which originated in B.C. and has been in the province since 2002, is a program designed to ensure food banks have funds to purchase perishable and other nutritious foods for hampers. Since 2002, the program has collected about $600,000 for participating food banks in the province.
“There have been two or three that have contacted us to say they are going to get it (program) out in their stores but Innisfail is the first that has got theirs up and running and ready to go,” said Stephanie Rigby, executive director for Alberta Food Banks, a 66-member agency that is administering the program and providing necessary support and materials for participating food banks.
The program is a partnership between a local food bank and a community grocery store to collect $2 donations that are added to a customer’s grocery bill through a scanned program card. The donation, which can be more than $2 with repeated swipes of the card, is then deposited in a special account by the grocery store. All the money collected by the store is forwarded to the local food bank at regular intervals, usually every four or six months.
The program was rebranded and expanded last fall. For the first 13 years, about a dozen food banks across Alberta benefited from funds collected exclusively from Save-On-Foods locations. While Save-On-Foods is still involved after the rebranding, the program is now reaching out to communities that have food banks but are serviced by other grocery stores.
“It is open to any grocery store. It’s all for food. It’s not for anything else and the key is that the more money that physically goes into the food bank the better they are equipped to buy what they need locally,” said Rigby.
“We don’t want them buying three towns over. We want them going back to that store and spend that money.”
The Innisfail food bank launched its Alberta Shares program on March 11 with Innisfail Co-op as its partner.
Darren Andres, manager of Co-op’s food centre, said his store is convinced the program offers many benefits to the community and its citizens.
“It’s a program that gets everyone involved instead of a food bank drive where it’s like a one-time deal in the fall or spring,” said Andres. “It’s a program that runs 365 days a year, and as we get our customers accustomed to it, two dollars a day from one person adds up. If you get 10 people, that’s $20 a day. It adds up faster than what you get from drives.”
Carole Sim, the coordinator of the local food bank, noted the initiative is being launched as latest statistics show demand for service at her agency is up 17 per cent for the first six months of its fiscal year, which began last July 1 and ended Dec. 31.
Sim said while Innisfail’s figures are not nearly as alarming as those in other communities, the new Alberta Shares program promises to be a “win-win” for the community.
“It will be spent in our community at the Co-op to buy groceries. It is a win-win for both of us,” she said.
Andres added the partnership with the local food bank is one important way his company can give back to the community during a particularly difficult economic time for many citizens.
“It’s time to give back. People support us and we have to support them,” said Andres. “With us being one of the bigger businesses in the area we give back as much as we can to the community. When things get better they will return the support.”
For more information on the Alberta Shares program visit the website of Alberta Food Banks at www.albertafoodbanks.org. or call 780-459-4598, or toll free at 1-866-251-2326. Businesses or citizens can also email Rigby at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephanie Rigby, executive director for Alberta Food Banks
“It is open to any grocery store. It’s all for food. It’s not for anything else and the key is that the more money that physically goes into the food bank the better they are equipped to buy what they need locally. We don’t want them buying three towns over.”