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Calgary Stampede’s leftover Midway food diverted to citizens in need

Stampede time in Calgary is known for its excesses – but crews on the Stampede ground are making sure that excess food isn‘t going to waste.

This year, the Stampede has a number for food vendors to call if they have leftover food that’s otherwise going to end up in the compost.

That’s when Austin Lang – Environmental Consultant with Calgary Stampede, and a team of about a dozen staff swing into action, going by with coolers to pick up the food and distribute it to community partners.

“If it’s prepared food we take it directly to the Alpha House,” said Lang, noting the shelter is nearby the Stampede grounds. “It allows us to get a quick turnaround.”

There are food safety standards that have to be met as the food is transported. It involves keeping the food at set temperatures, and logging those temperatures.

Non-prepared food gets split up and shared between two other community groups – The Calgary Food Bank and the Veterans Food Bank operated by the Calgary Poppy Fund.

Lang said the catering crew also has a program that sees leftover food go to those in need all year long.

“The catering team – they donate a lot of their pre-made food, and they donate a lot of frozen food and pieces like that,” he said.

For the past two years, The Leftovers Foundation – a volunteer organization that redistributes unwanted and leftover food – carried out a similar program on the Stampede Grounds.

Lourdes Juan, founder of The Leftovers Foundation, said they weren’t invited back this year to help, but the organization is OK with that.

In 2016, they only operated on the last night of the event, collecting two tonnes of food, but in 2017 they were on the grounds every night, picking up leftovers and getting them delivered.

“It wasn’t a smooth operation the first few days,” said Juan. “It was a bit rocky last year. We took it as lessons learned.”

She said they wrote up a report to the Stampede about what they had learned, and she was half expecting to be invited back, but she’s just glad the food is still being diverted.

“In hindsight, we’re OK with it,” she said. “We launched a couple new projects that are keeping the program fairly busy, and with non-profits it’s all about capacity. Probably it would be a stretch to have the capacity there this year anyway.”

They’re still interested in getting donations from any private Stampede events, including pancake breakfasts. To arrange for pickup, simply email help@rescuefood.ca.

Lang said they loved working with the Leftovers crew last year, but this year it just made more sense to handle it internally.

“Bringing the program internal has just made it easy for (the vendors) to divert food waste. It’s making both our compost program and our overall diversion rates way better.”