Contestants had one-minute to race through Bite Grocer in Inglewood on Wednesday, collecting as much food as they could for the Calgary Community Fridge.
The sweep was the culmination of a months long donation campaign that saw Bite Grocery customers make donations to the fridge for a chance to race the aisles.
“I just think it’s an amazing way that Bite’s giving back, a tiny way that I can help, and then get the word spread that in Calgary that there’s such a range of people that need food,” said Kelly Bouwman, one of the contestants.
“It’s just a small way that we can bless others.”
Originally, the contest had two-spots available for top donors to collect food for themselves during the race, and one spot open for a Calgary Community Fridge racer. One of those spots was given up to a second fridge racer in order to provide more food to the mutual-aid organization.
“That feels like the general theme of this, when people were reaching out to people see who is interested in actually taking part in the event tonight,” said Neil Godsman, general manager for Bite Grocer.
“Most people were trying to figure out a way to give it back to the Community Fridge, one way or another. So, it’s nice that this particular donor followed through with that.”
Jennifer Jette, one of the co-founders of the Calgary Community Fridge said that they were happy Bite was able to hold the contest after the delay.
“We’re so grateful that they stuck with it,” she said.
“I think it’s pretty special the community is getting involved with our little volunteer run mutual-aid project. It just goes to show how compassionate this organization in this neighbourhood is.”
Sweep fundraiser raises thousands for mutal-aid
In total, customers donated $2,332 to the Calgary Community Fridge from mid-May to mid-June.
The supermarket sweep was originally slated to take place at the end of June. A power outage in Inglewood caused more than $11,000 in product losses. Godsman said he asked donors if they could push back the sweep until they could restock their shelves so that there would be ample choice for the fridge.
“It just didn’t feel right to have empty shelves when we’re going to be doing this event,” he said.
The two community fridge racers were able to collect a pair of full shopping carts for the fridge, with all manner of produce, milk, eggs, bread, pasta, soups, crackers, and meat.
The sweep, which was capped at $150 per person, saw Bouwman collect just $130 during her one minute race.
“I’m kicking myself to be honest,” she laughed.
“I didn’t want to be too greedy, or overdo it or anything. I still think there’s some really good things in there.”
Fresh produce needed for those in need
Jette said that they're expecting a return of significant food insecurity challenges this winter like those of last year.
"We're expecting the exact same kind of issues, if not a little bit more this year, just because Covid has impacted everything and inflation in the job market is really rough," Jette said.
"A lot of people are in need of food this winter."
She said that all of the donations from the fundraiser and from the sweep evening would be going directly to supporting people in need.
"This will go directly to the community fridge, which is open 24/7, and access granted to anybody who needs it."
Fresh produce is one of the things that's always needed said Jette. Not a lot is delivered to the fridge.
"Fresh produce is one of the more expensive things at the grocery store. Inflation has been rising like crazy, and food scarcity in Alberta is pretty rampant, especially after COVID-19," she said.
A recent report found that Alberta had the highest rate of food insecurity in the nation, at 20.3 per cent. This was 1.5 per cent higher than Saskatchewan, and 5.4 per cent higher than B.C. The national average was 15.9 per cent.
Godsman said that inflation pressure was something he was seeing directly affecting his customers.
"Inflation is still very much a thing we haven't really seen that slowed down at all," he said.
"For the average person, if they are still collecting the same paycheque they were a year ago, it just doesn't go as far for things like feeding your family.
"The community fridge is a great resource, and I imagined is under more pressure than ever."
For more details on the Calgary Community Fridge, see their linktree at linktr.ee/calgarycommunityfridge.