Tanya Pidsadowski: Canola Farmers Give Back

December 22, 2017

by Tanya Pidsadowski, Public  Engagement Coordinator

How do you make Roberta Hill at Edmonton’s Food Bank jump for joy? You present her with two pallets of canola oil.

Roberta Hill with the Edmonton Food Bank accepting canola oil from Alberta Canola Director John Mayko and Public Engagement Coordinator Tanya Pidsadowski

Roberta works in Special Events and Resource Development and she was very excited when she received the call from Alberta Canola. I described to her that Alberta Canola was guided by and represented 14,000+ farmers that painstakingly plant, grow, harvest and ship canola seed from their farms to canola crushers around Alberta. The canola oil that comes from crushing those seeds, was now being donated to Edmonton’s Food Bank. This is the second year that Alberta Canola Farmers have given back to fellow Albertans. A total of 2,916 bottles of canola oil was given to food banks around the entire province. Roberta was extremely happy that 1,188 bottles of canola oil were on their way and invited us to come see Edmonton’s Food Bank facility.

Along with Alberta Canola Director John Mayko, I headed to the warehouse district bordering the former Edmonton Municipal Airport. Roberta gave us a personal tour where she explained that 60-80% of the donated food came from retail stores. These food items can no longer be sold, but are still good to eat. Edmonton’s Food Bank runs on the efforts of paid and volunteer staff. Roberta informed us that because of the generosity of volunteers, the Food Bank can make their resources stretch further. Forty full time equivalent positions are covered by volunteers, thereby allowing the organization to meet the needs of more clients. The volunteers work in a wide range of positions.

John asked an excellent question about a story he had seen on social media. The story reported that allegedly food banks did not want actual food items to be donated. The story then went on to say that food banks preferred that cash be given for food purchasing.  Roberta had read that article as well and answered that food items or cash are always gratefully received.  Cash is used to pay for overhead such as utilities, along with purchasing food. Food is bought by the case-lot at a lower cost per unit. Items like rice and eggs that are purchased in bulk by the Food Bank and are re-packaged into family sized portions.

Edmonton Food Bank volunteers unpacking canola oil donated by Alberta’s canola farmers.

Roberta also explained why she was so excited when the call from Alberta Canola came through. Surprisingly, oil is something that is rarely donated to Food Banks. Oil, however, is used by everyone regardless of their food preferences, heritage or lifestyle. Oil is a universal ingredient. It had never occurred to me how universal canola oil is. Canola farmers do touch everyone with their hard work.

Edmonton’s Food Bank provides basic hampers to over 20,000 clients each month and provides Festive Hampers in December. There are also 50 schools that receive assistance through their School Lunch and Snack programs through Edmonton’s Food Bank. Along with food, the Food Bank also can provide basics such as diapers, toiletries and even the occasional table lamp depending on the client’s situation. A new training program called Beyond Food has recently launched at the Annex of Edmonton’s Food Bank. Beyond Food, assists Edmontonians in resume writing, job applications and various skills training programs in different fields to help improve their quality of life.

At the end of the tour, Roberta thanked the Canola Farmers of Alberta for their generosity to Edmonton’s Food Bank and for supporting food banks throughout Alberta. She herself has ties to rural Alberta and appreciates how much work is involved in producing canola. Roberta wished the Canola Farmers of Alberta a Merry Christmas and thanked them again for their gift to Edmonton’s Food Bank.

Alberta Canola Connects is your window into the activities of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission as we work both locally and globally to make Alberta canola producers more profitable. 

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