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Edmonton buses park outside grocery stores to stock up on donations

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At least 37,000 rely on the Edmonton Food Bank each month, and the organization said it's a number that's getting harder to keep up with.

To help address the growing need, 15 ETS buses were parked outside Save On Foods stores across Edmonton on Saturday for the 29th annual Stuff a Bus Campaign.

In the past 29 years, the campaign has raised half a million dollars and collected 500,000 kilograms of food for the Edmonton Food Bank.

"It started out in 1995 as a smaller employee-led campaign," said Peter Haight from ETS. "It’s grown to be one of the largest third-party fundraisers in support of Edmonton’s food bank."

He said it's an event that means a lot to many ETS staff.

"They see that need everyday when they’re out driving their routes and serving their community," he added. "For them it’s an opportunity to help those that they serve everyday."

Tamisan Bencz-Knight has been with the Edmonton Food Bank for 35 years.

She said this year has seen the greatest demand in that time, with around 34,000 people being served each month.

"That's a lot of food, a lot of mouths, a lot of friends, a lot of colleagues, a lot of neighbors," Bencz-Knight said. "And we need people's help … to make sure we get the food in so we can move it right back out to our community."

In addition to the rising demand, she said donations are diminishing.

"It is a tough time right now for many people," she said. "Many of our events are actually coming back with half as much food coming in as it has been in the past.

"That's OK, because we know that everyone is feeling pinches right now. But we're asking that if people can contribute, please do so."

Bencz-Knight said even small donations can make a big difference.

"Every little bit helps is an understatement for us," she added. "You don't have to be a multimillionaire to give.

"You can give your $1 because your $1 is being pooled with so many other wonderful people giving their dollar."

Time is another welcome donation at the food bank.

Fifteen-year-old Reet Kahinda saw the need for volunteers two years ago and has been helping since.

"It’s a really fulfilling experience," Kahinda said. "You get to meet a lot of people so I think that if you’re just looking for a way to fill your time it’s a great way because you can also help out your community as well."

Saturday was the last day to stuff a bus, but Bencz-Knight said it's the start of many upcoming events to collect donations over the holiday season.

"I’m hoping that people that can give will continue to give and the people that need us will give us a call," she said. 

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