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Mayor’s Christmas Food Drive, Stuff-a-Bus event helping Calgarians in need

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she can’t think of a better way to kick off the holiday season than doing something to help Calgarians in need.

The mayor launched the 34th annual Mayor’s Christmas Food Drive and the 30th annual Stuff-a-Bus event at the Macleod Trail and 88 Avenue SW Calgary Co-Op on Saturday.

The goal through Saturday (Nov. 19) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. was for Calgarians to visit their nearby Calgary Co-Op location. Outside each of those locations will be a 40-foot Calgary Transit bus waiting to be filled with food. 

Last year, more than 90,000 pounds of food was donated along with $30,000 in funds.

“Being at events like this reminds me of what a privilege it is to live alongside compassionate Calgarians who have always risen to the call,” the mayor said.

“For the person who’s receiving a meal due to a donation or the family that has managed to get a non-perishable food item basket given to them at today’s event, your donations and time are making a world of difference in their lives. With inflation going up, many of our neighbours are going to need our help this year.”

Michael Pasma, President of the Calgary Food Bank, said the need at the food bank is higher than ever. In the month of October, they served 9,500 hampers. Last year, that number was 8,700.

“We’ve seen that increase across the board throughout the year and we expect it will continue,” he said.

While supply chain issues exist, he said their reliance on donations – and events like Stuff-a-Bus – has insulated them from the worst of that issue.

Helping a broad range of Calgarians

Pasma said they’re going to distribute millions of pounds of food this year. There’s no concern they won’t be able to meet the demand as we near the holidays.

They’re also seeing a broad range of Calgarians requiring help. Their recent Hunger Count report provided some insight into how that need is changing.

“The percent of those people that are working is higher than ever,” Pasma said.

Ken Keelor, CEO of Calgary Co-Op said that they treat community giving just like any business line item. It’s important to them to participate – and they’ve been doing so for 30 years.

Year round they have big boxes at the front of their Calgary stores to collect for the Calgary Food Bank.

Keelor recognized its unprecedent time for many Calgarians.

“The demand for these food products and hampers from our community has never been this high,” he said.

“I believe the food bank has told us it’s a record year for demand. So, it’s very, very important.”

Mayor Gondek said that as an extension of the Mayor’s Christmas Food Drive, they’ll hold the first-ever city council challenge. Councillors will compete to see who can get the highest amount of donations between Dec. 1 and 11.

The winner will be presented with the Golden Lettuce Award. (Bragging rights included.)

Calgary Transit and the Calgary Motor Dealers Charitable Foundation also helped with the Stuff-a-Bus event.

For more information, or to donate, go online to the Calgary Food Bank.