Skip to content

Food Bank Recipients Could Benefit from Learning to Cook Pulses (PCN Winter 2015) DEC 22 2014 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Protein-rich foods are always on the list of most-needed donations for Alberta’s food banks, but many of the people who need help don’t know what to do with pulses beyond a can of baked beans.

Stephanie Rigby, Executive Director of Alberta Food Banks, which is the provincial association of food banks, thinks that pulse growers could be the key to educating people who access food banks in their own communities about the benefits of pulses and how to prepare them.

“There are some farmers or producers who are very supportive of their food bank and have made that connection,” she said. “I think there definitely is a shyness about donating products sometimes because there is a sense that people don’t know what to do with it. To bridge that gap, farmers can find creative ways to work with their food bank to donate their time or their product.”

Rigby noted that donations of time and expertise are just as important to Alberta’s food banks as donations of products and money.

“There are many people who do know how to cook with pulses but there are also many who don’t,” Rigby said. “There are a couple of things that Alberta pulse growers can do to support the food bank with their product and expertise that would be extremely helpful. One thing is to contact your local food bank directly or the provincial organization to see what the needs are rather than dropping off a donation that no one is quite sure what to do with. The big thing is a lot of your farmers have the expertise, the know-how and the recipes. Sharing that information one on one at the food bank is a great connection.”

Rigby said that many food banks, such as the St. Albert Food Bank with which Alberta Food Banks shares space, have community kitchens and may welcome a producer family taking the time to teach clients how to cook a dish using pulses. Another great way to educate more Albertans about how to utilize pulses is to include pulse recipes with donations of pulses, with which APG would be pleased to assist. Even more educational resources will be available in the lead-up to International Year of Pulses in 2016, which was declared by the United Nations.

“There are great opportunities for farmers to connect with their local food banks to offer some of their skills by making a donation, bringing in recipes, offering to come in for an evening and teach about the products, how do you store them and get the most use out of them,” she said. “People given tools can absolutely use these products on a regular basis. We are always looking for ways for our donors to connect in their communities in a more personal way to make a difference and bring these skills to people who can use it to add a new component to their meals.”

Non-perishable items like canned meat and fish, beans with and without pork, powdered milk, peanut butter, pasta and sauce, canned fruits and vegetables are staples that many food banks build their food hampers around, Rigby said. But many food banks are able to accept and store perishable items like bread, dairy products, eggs, and produce by prior arrangement. Food banks also appreciate donations of diapers, toiletries, dish soap, and hygiene products.

“We do want to remind people that hunger is a year-round issue,” Rigby said. “It is top of mind during the holiday season. There seems to be a direct connection between Thanksgiving and Christmas being a time of giving to food banks, which we are so grateful for. A lot of the items that we collect at this time of the year will sustain the food banks well into the spring. It’s never a bad thing to only donate at Christmas, but we really do encourage people to donate again in the spring.”

Alberta Food Banks is the provincial association of food banks in Alberta with a mission to advance the vital role, capacity and voice of Alberta’s food banks through advocacy, educational and networking opportunities and exceptional member services. In 2014, there were more than 60 members of the association in Alberta – all are registered charities, a requirement for membership. There are an estimated 110 food banks operating in Alberta.

Rigby noted that half of Alberta’s food banks are run exclusively by volunteers.

For more information, about Alberta Food Banks, please visit: Rigby welcomes anyone interested in learning more about how they can help to contact their local food bank or email her at

Alberta by the Numbers

  • 49,766 people helped by a food bank in March, 2014 – up about 2% from a year ago.
  • The number of people helped during a month in 2008 was 33,580.
  • Nearly half of the people helped at food banks are children – 42.9%. This number is virtually unchanged in six years.
  • The number of food banks in Alberta reporting an increase in usage in 2014 was 48.7%
  • At the height of food bank use in 2010, as many as 59,311 people turned to food banks for help.
  • Statistics courtesy of