Home Fork & Spoon 2020 September Link2Feed Spotlight: Edson Food Bank Society

Link2Feed Spotlight: Edson Food Bank Society

In this ongoing series, learn how client intake software Link2Feed is revolutionizing food banks across Canada.
 
Food Bank:
Edson Food Bank Society
 
Serving the community of:
Edson, Alberta
 
Run by a team of:
32 volunteers
 
Clients being served per month:
303 individuals/166 households
 
For Cheryl Luckwell, Volunteer Secretary of the Edson Food Bank Society in Edson, Alberta — knowledge is not only power, it’s essential.
 
“I’m all about statistics,” says Cheryl. “They are especially important for food banks, as data is now an essential requirement when it comes to applying for any type of grant.”
 
The Edson Food Bank Society happens to apply for a lot of funding that is oil field or organizational-related (Rotary, Elks Club, etc.) and all of them demand key information.
 
“Local industry and organizations are continually getting requests for grants,” continues Cheryl. “They only have so much money to go around. So, to determine who gets a piece of the pie, potential donors request very specific kinds of data — such as how many people regularly come through our doors, or how many food hampers we hand out. Being able to provide the information they want is critical to securing that funding.”
 
However, capturing and accessing data used to be a challenge for Edson Food Bank Society volunteers.
 
“Believe it or not, the way we captured information until a few short years ago was by writing things down on recipe cards,” explains Cheryl. “When clients dropped in, we’d pull their card and add a little note by hand. While it sounds archaic, the system worked well for us for many years.”
 
Although Cheryl knew their system eventually had to be updated, it was a Link2Feed conference back in 2018 that finally put their new data-capturing wheels into motion.
 
“As somebody that sees the value in statistics, I immediately recognized the benefit of Link2Feed,” recalls Cheryl. “Particularly when it came to eliminating some of the challenges we had using the recipe cards.”
 
One particular benefit of using Link2Feed for Cheryl is being able to capture a wide range of statistics.’
 
“With the recipe cards, we didn’t capture anywhere near as much information as we can with Link2Feed — such as birth dates,” states Cheryl. “Now I can easily run a report to get an age breakdown to see how many of our clients are children versus those who are adults.”
 
Having access to this kind of data proved to be invaluable to the Edson Food Bank Society back in the spring.
 
“When the pandemic hit, one of the schools in the community reached out to make a financial donation,” recalls Cheryl. “They had extra funding due to their lunch program ending prematurely, because of the lockdown, and wanted to give that money to an organization that would exclusively help children. To receive those funds, the school wanted to know how many children we assisted. Using Link2Feed, I was able to provide them with that information within minutes. They, in turn, awarded us with the funding.”
 
While it’s been nothing but smooth sailing since implementing Link2Feed, the journey to get there had a few obstacles along the way.
 
“One of the biggest hurdles in the beginning, was not having a computer or the Internet (at the food bank),” explains Cheryl. “But somebody was kind enough to donate the former. So, the next challenge was to simply convince all board members to invest the rest of the required technology. I think that’s a bit of an obstacle for many smaller food banks — which, like Edson, are typically run by retirees. Many of these people have never used a computer before because they worked in a time when technology wasn’t a part of the work environment. Yet I can’t stress enough how user-friendly the Link2Feed program is. Even the board members who were resistant at first can easily navigate their way around it. More importantly, they now see the incredible value this software brings.”
 
For a food bank that is entirely run by volunteers, that value translates to increased efficiency.
 
“Link2Feed makes it easier for us volunteers to do our jobs,” adds Cheryl. “I used to do statistics by literally counting and adding multiple spreadsheets. Now I just have to push a button and voilà, I get a single report in less than a minute. It’s been a huge timesaver. Plus it eliminates mistakes. With the recipe cards, there was a greater chance of information getting lost because of cards being misfiled.
 
Link2Feed also enables Edson Food Bank Society to personalize the food banking experience for its clients.
 
Cheryl goes on to explain, “Most of our regulars come in at the same week every month, so our front desk volunteer gets to know these people pretty well. But there are times when she’s away and somebody else has to step in. Having the ability to capture contact notes for each client within Link2Feed helps to make the food banking experience far more personal because those notes can be used as a starting point for conversation.”
 
At the end of the day, Link2Feed empowers the Edson Food Bank Society with valuable data that has the potential to make a difference.
 
“Although none of us are social workers, the more we can understand our clients’ unique situations, the greater the potential for identifying the root causes of food insecurity,” Cheryl says in closing. “Who are these individuals? What are their stories? How long have they been impacted? By arming us with answers to these and other questions, Link2Feed provides us with a greater capacity for change. Because real change can only happen if we truly understand those we are trying to help. Using Link2Feed, I believe we’re well on our way to making that happen.”
 

Pictured: Fred Kuzmic, Edson Food Bank Society President, using Link2Feed

About Link2Feed

Using the power of data, Link2Feed is a national movement bringing food bankers together to identify the root causes of poverty — ultimately working toward a Canada where nobody goes hungry. Approximately 50% of food banks across the country are already using this innovative, cloud-based software for client intake. Food Banks Canada is working to expand the use of the Link2Feed across the Canadian food bank network.

Questions? Contact Marni Wolf, Project Manager, Link2Feed at marni@foodbankscanada.ca.