Staff at Edmonton’s Food Bank are preparing for what could be a long, cold holiday season after a year of skyrocketing demand and the recent decision to pull the plug on its biggest winter donation drive.

“We’re approaching this with cautious optimism,” Food Bank executive director Marjorie Bencz said Thursday.

Edmonton Chamber of Commerce officials announced a day earlier they were darkening the city’s annual winter festival, Bright Nights. The festival brings in 30,000 kilograms of food and $30,000 each year for the charity.

The organization is strained, Bencz said, as demand has risen 70 per cent this year, and they’ve already spent 150 per cent of their annual food budget.

“We used to be spending $2,000 a month on eggs. Now we’re spending $4,000,” she said.
Despite current challenges and the loss of the festival, organizers are finding ways to cope, she added.

Plans are in development for a new Chamber-sponsored event to be held in November, and Food Bank officials will be reaching out to the community for more support, Bencz said.

“I think, over time, we’ll be OK,” Bencz said. “We have lots of support, and that relationship is still there.”