Banff Food Rescue

Banff Food Rescue ensures those in need have access to fresh food during pandemic

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All too often, perfectly good food ends up in the trash. Banff Food Rescue was launched in 2016 as a means of preventing this good food from becoming food waste, and it continues to be a vital lifeline for many during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alanna Pettigrew, founder of Banff Food Rescue, is a lifelong resident of the mountain town. Years spent working in grocery stores and the hospitality industry meant seeing her share of food waste and it struck a chord.

“I also had experience with the local food bank and saw, quite often, what we were giving were things that were basically what people were already living on, so pasta, pasta sauce, tinned corn, tinned peas, cans of tuna,” says Pettigrew. “But they’re lacking the veggies that are really required to have a healthy, balanced diet. One day I decided, ‘OK, that’s it. I’ve made up my mind. This is what I’m doing, and it took off from there.”

Banff Food Rescue began in Pettigrew’s home, where her husband and volunteers helped pack up daily donations from local grocery stores, and it expanded to its current location on Banff Avenue in June 2019. In addition to providing fresh, healthy food to those in need, it promotes environmental sustainability within the community. Pettigrew receives ongoing support from numerous community organizations, including the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation, as well as donations from Gordon Food Services and local grocery stores. She’s recently partnered with the Banff Hospitality Collective to facilitate donations and expand their food-storage options. Katie Tuff, Chief of Operations and Development with Banff Hospitality Collective, also added a Banff Food Rescue page to their own website to help get the word out.

Banff Food Rescue

Jesse Beal, left, on behalf of the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation, delivers a donation to the Banff Food Rescue.

Photo credit: Dan Evans
“COVID-19 is considered a disaster economically, globally, and the second disaster is having food you would dump rather than feed people. So, we thought, let’s get together and feed some people.” Alanna Pettigrew, founder of Banff Food Rescue

The partnership with Banff Hospitality Collective has allowed Banff Food Rescue to expand its storage capabilities, with businesses like Park Distillery and the Fairmont Banff Springs storing fresh food donations in their freezers.

“I think we had, at one point, 50 cases of Romaine lettuce, each case weighing 55 pounds, so you do the math,” says Pettigrew. “It was a lot more food than we’d ever seen, and it takes a lot of quick thinking of, ‘How are we going to get this to people before it goes bad?’ Luckily, I have a large team of volunteers that stepped up to the plate.”

Normally, Banff Food Rescue would serve between 40 and 60 clients visiting each day to choose their food items. Due to COVID-19 and the economic hardships that have come in its wake, Pettigrew says that number has grown exponentially. Recently, one day alone saw more than 230 people pick up food, which doesn’t include food being delivered by volunteers to families and individuals who are self-isolating. To keep people safe and adhere to physical-distancing regulations, Banff Food Rescue has adapted their in-person services to offer those opting to pick up their food with pre-made bags, complete with fresh food and essential staples.

Banff Food Rescue
Photo credit: Dan Evans

Pettigrew notes the COVID-19 health crisis has brought the community together in new ways, whether that is through donations or partnerships with businesses they may not have had the opportunity to otherwise. For example, Tim Horton’s approached Banff Food Rescue to donate food that would go unused at its cancelled summer camps. Pettigrew wasn’t able to re-package the large volume of canned items they were offering, so she connected them with Pursuit. The company launched the Easy Eats program in April, which allows the community to purchase vacuum-sealed, high-quality meals at an affordable price. They simply place the bags in boiling water and have a quick, healthy meal that’s ready to enjoy. Pettigrew also highlights the Grizzly House, a longstanding fixture of the Banff restaurant community, which launched a free delivery service to provide meals to seniors unable to get groceries.

“It’s really important to make sure no one falls through the cracks,” she says. “I think the most important thing we can do is give each and every one of our friends, neighbours, people that you think about, encouragement. Encourage them and let them know that you’re there, that you’re listening if they need you, that you can accommodate them if they need something. We’ll all get through this.”

Banff Food Rescue is continuously accepting monetary donations to ensure to cover operational costs and ensure they can continue providing this vital service to the community. Monetary donations are accepted via e-transfer to banff.food.rescue@gmail.com, and food donations can be coordinated through the organization’s website.