Fall Food Harvests 2013
Contributed by Ron Bissett of the Edmonton Alberta Millwoods Stake and Chris Palmer of the Winnipeg Manitoba Stake
The date has been set. Flier details are off to press. A simple “black on pink” slip of paper to be handed out mere days before Edmonton's September 28th Food Drive will yield a massive amount of food at a time of year when most people aren't even thinking about food for those in need.
According to most food banks, fall food drives come at a great time of year when their shelves are nearly empty. Christmas is generally when people think of being charitable, forgetting the crucial need throughout the rest of the year. By the end of summer and early fall, food banks everywhere begin to struggle. Donations fall off and food banks begin dipping into their cash funds, depleting their ability to function at full capacity. It's those few months before “the Christmas Spirit” kicks in that are critical for any food bank.
For the fifth year in a row, individuals, families and Scout troops will deliver 188,000 fliers door to door in the city of Edmonton. Then members of every ward from each of the four stakes will begin canvasing homes in the city with the goal of collecting thousands of pounds of food on behalf of Edmonton's Food Bank.
Edmonton isn't alone. Stakes and wards from across Canada are getting involved. Fall food drives have become a significant source of food for families and individuals who otherwise would not be able to cope in dire and critical times, especially the upcoming winter months. An often overlooked issue in Food Bank drives is that 40 per cent of the food collected goes to children. That fact is being included in Edmonton's fliers this year.
While many stakes throughout the country are just gearing up for these magnificent fall events, the Winnipeg Manitoba Stake has already completed its annual drive to collect non-perishable food items for the “Winnipeg Harvest”. This drive marked their eighth consecutive year, and with the help of corporate contributions, they collected over 101,000 pounds of food, setting a new record for the stake. Hundreds of volunteers spent the week leading up to Saturday’s collection--dropping off door hangers and inviting members of the community to leave donations on their front steps for pick up that Saturday morning. The morning of their event found those same volunteers driving around the city delivering the collected items to drop points where missionaries and church and community members alike pitched in to help. In summarizing this year’s efforts, Winnipeg organizer Wayne Drozdowski said, “What a wonderful effort by all involved. We have indeed been of service in our communities and we have demonstrated through our efforts to do as the Savior would have done. We have truly been His hands in this work.”
Local media outlets are often instrumental in raising the profile of the event and promoting it through newspaper ads, TV commercials and radio broadcast spots in the weeks leading up to these events. These advertisements increase the city's awareness of the enormous and timely need. This year Edmonton is also adding road signs to increase public awareness.
In an interview last year, one of Edmonton's Food Bank representatives said that they were very pleased to partner with the Church. The number of volunteers and the results exceeded their expectations. They found us to be a very well organized, “large army of volunteers”. Communication throughout the event was positive and cooperative. For such a large contingent of people, it was surprising that so few people were needed to coordinate the project. The tremendous response and results kept the food banks from having to use their financial reserves. The manager of the Edmonton Food Bank said she was “so grateful” to work with us. She was also impressed with the capabilities of the Church as they provided both the organizational skills and the people power.
Usually Edmonton's largest food drive happens during the week-long Heritage Festival in August, but last year was the largest single drive that the city had ever seen where the Church collected 159,000 pounds of food in just one day.
The purpose of food drives is to provide for others so that no one should go hungry anywhere in this blessed country. It is through such food drives that the missions of the Church to proclaim the gospel through our works, perfect the Saints by our participation and show care for the poor and needy are being fulfilled. As members of the Church, we should be on the front lines whenever there is such a need and help wherever possible at our upcoming local LDS Food Drives.