A unique food bank in Parkland County is helping low-income families feed their four-legged family members.

“The food bank does get some (pet) food donated they just don’t have the space. With all the other food donated for the families there isn’t enough space, we get the food,” said Brenda Martin, President of the Pet Food Bank of Parkland County.

The idea for a food bank aimed towards animals came about in 2013 when volunteers at the Humane Society would hear families comment that they couldn’t afford the cost of keeping a pet.

“I said maybe we could have a pet food bank very much like a human food bank. There’s no difference, pets need to eat, people need to eat.”

Martin says that they originally started the food bank in her garage with donations of expired pet food from local pet stores.

“If a bag of pet food has expired it has at least a year shelf life after that in cans and in the bags.”

She says they started with just a bookshelf’s worth of pet food.

“We started to hand it out at the human food bank here but they had no room for us, they had a need for a bigger facility.”

The Pet Food Bank eventually moved to a new facility near to the existing human food bank and Martin again reached out to as many pet food suppliers and manufacturers as she could.

“They give us the food that comes in damaged off the trucks so there’s a constant ongoing supply of food for us now. The only time we throw out and food is when it’s in a bag that has no indication of what it is or when a can is so mangled from transport that it could be leaking.”

Martin says that anyone, not just Parkland County residents, can apply to use this service.

“They come in from Evansburg, Entwistle, Edson, Edmonton, St. Albert.”

Applicants are required to show proof of income and require that the pets in question be spayed or neutered, if the animal isn’t spayed or neutered the group has programs to help pet owners through that process.

“We give them complimentary pet food for the first month and the next month they either come in with a certificate that their pets are fixed of the application to have them fixed and then they’re in the program to receive a supplement of pet food and supplies.”

Martin says there are around 400 people currently enrolled in their program.

One food bank user is Maria Arbour, she says that even after an injury left her unable to work and she struggles to make ends meet, she doesn’t fill her own table first.

“I'd spend my money, the food money that I get on the animals first,” Arbour said.

Arbour recently had to turn to the food bank for herself and that’s when she discovered the Pet Food Bank just across the street.

“I don't know if I'll come all the time, but hopefully I can get back on my feet,” Arbour said.

“It’s a passion. It’s not a hobby, it isn’t a charity, it’s a passion and that’s how we look at it,” Martin said.

Martin says that while the ability to help people take care of their pets is rewarding, they do still expect owners to contribute.

“We don’t supply for the full month, we do expect them to supply some of their own pet food but we’re here to supplement them so we try to give them about half a month’s supply.”

The Pet Food Bank is open from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.on Wednesdays.

With files from Amanda Anderson