Marjorie Bencz, Executive Director of Edmonton’s Food Bank

Marjorie Bencz has helped redefine how we think of community, especially how we think about food in our community.

Accolades span two decades, including 1997’s honorary diploma from Grant MacEwan University; 2000 Global TV’s Woman of Vision; the Order of Canada in 2006; and 2012 YWCA Woman of Distinction award.

In a season that’s all about abundance and joy, the message of the Food Bank is even more vital — that it’s up to us as a community to share that abundance in every possible way.


Edmonton, born and raised.

Years in food bank biz?

I started as a volunteer in 1987, and was hired in December 1987. I’ve been the executive director since 1989. We were formed in 1981 as the Edmonton Gleaners Association. Though our size and scope has changed, 80 per cent of the food is still gleaned from warehouses, grocery stores, farmers, food stores, grocery, Northlands, and Shaw.

Where would you like to live?

I love Edmonton. I do have farmland in rural Alberta in the west Edson area, and two of my daughters live in rural Alberta. There are a lot of small cities and towns in Alberta that we should celebrate.

Your favourite food and drink?

I really like saskatoons and blueberries, the flavour and texture of the fruit as you eat them while you pick. I like my coffee.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing what you are doing?

I do like mucking around outside gardening, or something with kids and horses.

What do you most appreciate in your friends?

Steadfast loyalty. Most of my long-time friends have been with me through good times and bad. They are not frivolous.

Your favourite qualities in a volunteer?

Dependability, predictability, reliability, trustworthiness. We have about 4000 people coming through as volunteers every year.

What are your favourite qualities in a donor?

Steadfast loyalty — it’s not a matter of how much, it’s the ongoing relationship that’s important.

Who would be at your dream dinner table (dead or alive)?

That answer might vary from day to day. Bob Wyatt from the Muttart Foundation; I appreciate his professional leadership. Joyce Kelly is a farrier and riding partner. She talks about horses and agriculture and animals — the other end of the spectrum.

Who would cook?

Bob and Joyce are both really good cooks. Bob is gourmet, Joyce is rural, pies and chili, homemade breads.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

That’s not the hill I’m going to die on.

Current obsession/exploration?

One of the things we struggle with is that we are a leader in food security and we have great partnerships organizations that are not as well-known. I wonder how we can do business better, how do we grow those organizations? How do we work more collaboratively?

Meaningful/crazy experience?

It’s crazy that I do what I do. I’m much more of an introvert than this position requires. I struggle with a lot of people and public speaking.

Best thing that ever happened to you?

Three lovely daughters and beautiful grandchildren. When I received the Order of Canada, my volunteers and staff said: ‘we have an Order of Canada!’ That’s important to me, that everyone felt responsible for that.


That’s where I’ve been really fortunate, some wonderful people, great mentors: Bob Wyatt, Joyce Kelly, Liz O’Neill (Big Brothers Big Sisters), Martin Garber-Conrad (Edmonton Community Foundation). My mum is a special person in my life, and you learn from your kids, and you learn from grandchildren.

What’s next?

We have a succession plan as an organization and we have a wonderful team; I’m very well supported and have great people around me. I keep thinking I
should slow down a little, take holidays, not work such long hours, but I’m not convinced I know how to do that.