Airdrie Food Bank uses awareness campaign to dispel myths

Story by Stacie Gaetz


Photos by Courtesy of Airdrie Food Bank

The Airdrie Food Bank is hoping to inform residents about the services and programs it provides the community through an awareness campaign.

“We are finding that there is some mis-information out there about how we support the community,” says Lori McRicthie, executive director of the Airdrie Food Bank.

“We do not just give out soup and Kraft Dinner, you don’t have to jump through hoops to be supported and we do not limit how many times you can come to us for support.”

She says the main purpose of the food bank is “to facilitate the good will of the community.”

“Years ago, you would know your neighbours and you knew when they need a bit of help and you would bring over a casserole,” she adds.

“Now, we do not know our neighbours as well and it is the job of the food bank to allow those who can give to help those in need. We are just the go-between that is driven by the community.”

She adds that the most important services the food bank provides can be broken up into three things:

  • providing support for those in the community with food insecurities,
  • rescuing food that would otherwise not make it into the hands of those in need,
  • feeding school kids if their families are struggling

Airdrie Food Bank volunteers put together and distribute between 250 and 300 food hampers per year. These include food for between seven to 10 days and people in need can receive a hamper once every 30 days.

The food in a hamper includes meats, dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, spices, school snacks and more. Hampers also include toiletries, cleaning products and other items a family might need. They are all customized for the family that will be receiving them based on a telephone intake process and are picked up at a pre-scheduled appointment time through a drive-through at the food bank location.

“COVID has changed a number of the things we do including giving out hampers via drive through, sanitizing and cleaning more often and having one family at a time in our facility for our pantry program,” says McRitchie.

“COVID has also allowed us to eliminate any barriers that may be standing in the way of people accessing our programs and services.”

The long-running pantry program includes a drop-in program that allows people to access fresh and shelf items that they may need to get them through to the next meal.

“The pantry program partners with our food recovery initiative, which allows us to collect good-quality food from restaurants, grocery stories, food distribution companies, Costco, COBS Bread and so many other places where this food would go to waste unless it came to us,” says McRitchie, adding that 40 to 60 families a day access the pantry program.

“We do 70 or more pick-ups per week of this food so that we can be good stewards and get it to the community where it is needed. Anyone can stop by and get the immediate support they need any time we are open.”

McRitchie says that an astounding 45 per cent of the food that is given out in the hampers goes to children, meaning there are a number of kids that are going to school hungry.

That is why the food bank has put such an emphasis on their school programs.

The food bank currently operates the Snack Attack program, gives gift cards to schools so staff can purchase fresh foods, and facilitates breakfast and lunch programs in Airdrie and area schools.

“We give out 44,000 items to schools in need per year,” says McRitchie, adding that the food bank’s 350 volunteers are a huge part of making these programs a reality.

In addition to all of these programs and services, the food bank also grows their own food through a garden program, teaches people how to cook in their kitchen and refers those in need to partner agencies to receive help they need in other ways.

For more information on the Airdrie Food Bank, click here.