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Initiative aims to help restaurants, residents impacted by COVID-19

A new initiative aimed at helping residents and restaurants was launched by a group of Canmore businesses.
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Joanne March, left, Jessica Kunz, Jennifer Carlson, Kelly Volkhammer, Caroline Vlessides and Florencia Dominguez Major, organizers of Food For Friends enterprise poses for a portrait the on Thursday (March 18). EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO

CANMORE – A new initiative aimed at helping residents and restaurants was launched by a group of Canmore businesses.

The Food For Friends enterprise is the brainchild of the Main Street Business Collective, a group of retailers who already help one another with cross promotions, and started March 6. The concept has a business sponsoring a local restaurant using various in-store promotions.

The business uses a portion of its sales to buy gift cards from the eatery, which are then dropped off to the Bow Valley Food Bank to be given to clients as part of their hamper program.

“There’s some businesses who haven’t been impacted as much as others during COVID,” said Mike Gordon, the owner of Stonewaters, a furniture and home décor store in downtown Canmore.

The aim is to get as many restaurants and businesses involved. While restaurants receive a bit of extra cash flow, they might not have otherwise received, people who use the food bank can get a meal.

Gordon said the group, which is separate from closely named Canmore Food and Friends, are hoping individual businesses are able to sponsor a restaurant for between $250 and $500 to be put towards gift cards.

It’s a win-win, Gordon said, with residents and businesses benefiting.

With a large aspect of Canmore’s economy relying on tourism, the mountain town has been heavily affected by the pandemic. As public health requirements are needed to slow the possibility of COVID-19 transmission, small business owners and employees have felt the crunch.

“It’s something we can do right now and we can promote certain products with the proceeds that can go to this initiative,” Gordon said.

The idea came to Gordon after his wife saw something a friend in Medicine Hat had shared on Facebook in January.

The 40 Hot Meal Project was created by Medicine Hat Realtor Torrey Mattson with the intent of helping the food bank and restaurants.

By early January, they had raised more than $40,000 after setting an original goal of $5,000 for 500 meals. The concept has local businesses pay for meals, which are frozen and donated to the food bank.

Gordon said the Main Street Collective was confident in being able to replicate the success in Medicine Hat.

While the Bow Valley Food Bank doesn’t have the capacity to take hot meals like in Medicine Hat, the gift cards in the hampers bridges the gap.

“We’d try to spread it around so all restaurants were eventually reached,” Gordon said.

He also said they’ve reached out to businesses in Morley and plan to do the same in Banff to reach more people in the Bow Valley. The program would run throughout the pandemic, but Gordon said they’d see if it was something that was also needed when the local economy begins to improve.

A website run by Scott Smith of Empowered Retail Inc. will help streamline any businesses interested in participating. Other businesses signed up are Mountain Mercantile, Shoes t’Boot, The Tin Box and Unlimited, but more are encouraged to join.

“It’s a local initiative that’s helpful and feels good to be able to give back, if even a little bit” Gordon said.

The website at www.foodforfriendsbv.com can be visited for interested businesses or donors.