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'It feels good to give back': Girl Guides collect donations for Edmonton Food Bank


Local Girl Guides recently went door to door and set up tables at grocery stores to collect more than 4,000 kilograms of food for Edmonton's Food Bank.

On March 9, the local Girl Guides club held its annual "Hike for Plenty" food drive.

"It's an incredible opportunity for them to learn what it means to be a neighbor, a community member and a citizen… for them to understand the need that might exist in their community, and to empower them so that they know that they're able to help," said Marie McConnell, the Hike for Plenty coordinator.

In Edmonton, the event began in 1999, when members were able to make it to every door in the city, according to McConnell.

"Hike for Plenty" is one of the food bank's first major drives of the year.

"It's a time of the year when the food that the Food Bank collected over the holiday season, when they get many generous donations, is starting to dwindle and the shelves are getting a little bit empty," McConnell said.

"All this (food) is going to go to someone who really needs it," said Isobel, a Girl Guide. "So that really gives me a good feeling about doing this."

"It also feels good to give back to the community," added Grace, another Girl Guide.

40 per cent of food bank clients are children

Edmonton's Food Bank helps more than 34,000 people each month and distributes nearly six million kilograms of food a year, according to its website. Around 40 per cent of the clients served through the hamper program are children.

"These are the next generation, our future, struggling to have food on the table," said Tamisan Bencz-Knight, the food bank's manager of strategic relationships and partnerships.

"One of the stories that always speaks to me is years ago, we had a family come in right close to closing, they came running in, they had never used the food bank before… They came in worried that they didn't qualify," Bencz-Knight added. "Of course our team said, 'No, don't worry, the qualification for us is that you self-identify that you have to make a choice between paying the rent or feeding yourself.'

"They brought out the food for the family and the little boy jumped up for joy and said, 'Look, Daddy, we're rich!' When that comes out of a child's mouth, that they equate wealth with food, you know you're doing right."

Edmonton's Food Bank was established in 1981 as the Edmonton Gleaners Association and was Canada's first food bank.

"It's a wonderful feeling to know that the younger generations are getting involved in the community and see the value in helping," said Susan Padget, a resource development assistant with Edmonton's Food Bank.

In this year's drive, 4,086 kilograms of food was collected, along with monetary donations equalling 401 kilograms of food.

Over the years, Girl Guides have collected over 170,000 kilograms of food for Edmonton's Food Bank through "Hike for Plenty."

Girl guides get something from drive, too

The food drive also helps teach the participants understanding and empathy, which in turn, creates a kinder community, according to Bencz-Knight.

"Then they can put themselves in other people's shoes and understand that they might be privileged that they can open up their lunchbox and have food, whereas others might not," she added.

"Maybe they'll recognize that with somebody at school and may be able to help them too."

The Girl Guides may be best known for selling cookies door to door, but the organization is much more than that. It aims to empower girls between ages five and 17 by offering new experiences, building their confidence and helping them to develop life skills.

"Our goal as Girl Guides is to help these youth members grow into everything they can be and that includes pursuing their passions and their interests, but also learning what it means to be a valued member of their community and a member of their community who gives back and participates," McConnell said.

"It feels good to give back, it feels good to know that you're out doing something good, but it's also fun to get together with friends and to do things with friends."

The Girl Guides of Canada has been around since 1910 and has 97,000 members across the country.

The event in March also collected food in and around Sherwood Park.

Girl Guide units in Fort Saskatchewan, St. Albert and Fort McMurray also collect donations at a different time of year, according to McConnell.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Nahreman Issa and Galen McDougall Top Stories

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