Panic-buying causing some food shortages at Wood Buffalo Food Bank

The Wood Buffalo Food Bank is struggling to fill food hampers as people stock up and “panic-buy” groceries in preparation for coronavirus. 

Typically the food bank buys fresh produce and meat from local grocery stores, but as people empty shelves, it’s getting harder for the stores to fill the food bank’s order. 

Dan Edwards, executive director of the Wood Buffalo Food Bank, said there was about a dozen clients who have walked away without any fresh meat in their food hampers and others have had reduced hampers. 

“We’re able to get a little bit, but not a whole lot,” said Edwards. 

He added that there’s been a decrease in regular donations, which has led to depleted stocks in items like canned fruits and vegetables. Edwards said the food bank is doing its best to stretch out their stock. 

“I don’t want to go in and buy everything so that you as the general public can’t get it,” he said. 

“We want to be able to get reasonable amounts for us so that we can help our clients who are coming to us who can’t go and panic-buy because they don’t have the funds required to do that.”

Executive director of the Wood Buffalo Food Bank, Dan Edwards, suggests people only buy for a few weeks, not a few months so there’s enough for everyone. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

Edwards said the food bank has seen an uptick in use thanks to the struggling regional economy and people facing job losses. 

“Now we just have a new layer that is adding to issues.”

On Friday, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo hosted a press conference detailing how it is preparing for the coronavirus. 

The municipality has closed its recreation centres and Mayor Don Scott said leadership is taking an “aggressive” approach to preventing the spread of coronavirus. 

“I believe that we are well positioned to address this issue going forward,” said Scott. 

Scott said if any organizations are struggling in the wake of the coronavirus, they should reach out to the municipality for assistance. 

He said the food bank hadn’t reached out yet, but “as those concerns arise, and I would fully expect that we’ll see more and more, then I would hope that people would feel the confidence to reach out to the government.” 

Edmonton’s Food Bank hasn’t seen the same issue with stock, but it has had to reduce the number of volunteers. 

Carly Kincaid Williams, special events and communications co-ordinator for Edmonton’s Food Bank, said they are cutting back on large groups of volunteers, like the Girl Guides or corporate groups until May 1. 

Dan Edwards, executive director of the Wood Buffalo Food Bank, says this shelf of meat is typically full, but as people “panic-buy” there’s not enough stock for him to buy. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

The food bank will still be accepting healthy, single volunteers whom Kincaid Williams said they rely on.

“I think we’re going to have to work a lot harder, to be completely honest, but we’re still going to do it.”

The Wood Buffalo Food Bank is hoping to increase donations, and Edwards said the community has been rallying to help. 

There are currently no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Wood Buffalo zone.

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