Providing much-needed meals for those with no wheels

Wood Buffalo Food Bank’s Mobile Pantry program serves isolated families in northern Alberta

For those living in remote areas of northern Alberta, no wheels can sometimes mean no meals.

And that’s the motivation behind the Wood Buffalo Food Bank’s Mobile Pantry program.

“For a lot of the families living in isolated communities, the amount of money they spend on trying to get to town just to buy groceries is a serious issue,” says Arianna Johnson, executive director of the Wood Buffalo Food Bank, based in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

“Most of these communities don’t have their own grocery stores. And if they do have a convenience store, there’s often a lack of nutrition that goes along with the expense,” she adds. “Even if they’re working, between the cost of transportation, child care and housing, it’s often difficult for a family to feed themselves out there.”

Established in the summer of 2014 after a one-year pilot project, the WBFB’s Mobile Pantry program serves isolated communities along Highway 881 near Fort McMurray, like Janvier, Conklin, Fort McKay and the Fort McMurray No. 468 First Nation.

Since August 2015, the program has served 261 unique households in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo—with monthly hampers accentuating fresh, nutritious food that includes milk, eggs, apples, oranges, carrots, potatoes, lettuce, ground beef, poultry and fish, as well as non-perishable items.

The WBFB is now offering volunteer opportunities for those in the Fort McMurray area interested in helping deliver hampers for the Mobile Pantry program.

“What we hear back from families is the relief that this service provides, the stress that it alleviates, and how much it has helped them be more productive and their families stay healthier,” says Johnson.

The Wood Buffalo Food Bank also offers:

  • A Basic Shelf program, whose workshops focus on nutrition, cooking, shopping and basic financial literacy;
  • A Slow Cooker program, which teaches clients how to cook healthy foods on a tight budget;
  • A Snack Attack program, providing snacks to schoolchildren who may not be able to bring any; and
  • Emergency hampers for those in need.

Enbridge is committed to helping build sustainable, healthy communities near our pipelines and facilities. Enbridge employee-led United Way campaigns raised $5 million across North America in 2015, while Enbridge contributed $19 million to about 750 non-profits in the U.S. and Canada near our operations in 2015.

Per a recent pre-Christmas tradition at Enbridge, we have contributed $50,000 this month to Edmonton’s Food Bank. And in Fort McMurray, our ongoing support of the WBFB included a recent $20,000 donation toward Mobile Pantry program operations.

Working collaboratively with the community, the WBFB gets Mobile Pantry referrals “from social agencies, government, industry, friends and family—and since the spring, that has included Red Cross referrals for families impacted by the wildfire here,” says Johnson.

“Actually, since the fire, because of people’s generosity, we’ve been able to increase the size of our hampers.”

(TOP PHOTO: Volunteers in Fort McMurray help assemble hampers during a Wood Buffalo Food Bank food drive earlier this month.)