Banff Food Rescue founder honoured as YWCA Change Maker

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Banff’s Alanna Pettigrew is passionate about rescuing food.

It is a fact that becomes abundantly clear to anyone who takes the time to talk to the founder of Banff Food Rescue about keeping good food from going into the landfill.

Pettigrew’s drive to create change in her community was honoured earlier this month by YWCA Banff as part of its Change Makers event held on International Women’s Day (March 6) at the Banff Centre.

Along with Dr. Elizabeth Hall-Findlay and Lorraine Widmer-Carson, Pettigrew received the distinction that is given annually to women in the community who are contributing to lasting, positive change in their community and beyond.

Each year, women in the community who inspire change are nominated by their peers and a selection committee of YWCA board members, award alumnae and community members decides the award’s recipients.

Pettigrew, who also received the 2017 Stars of Alberta Volunteer Award, said she was surprised to be one of those honoured, because the work for her is something she is passionate about.

“You are not doing it for any specific award or accolades,” she said. “You are doing it because it is something you believe in, you have a passion for and I find it is something I throw myself into and I absolutely love it.

“It is the best unpaid job I have ever done and I thoroughly enjoy it.”

In addition to her work advocating for adults with disabilities and the Banff Light Horse Association, Pettigrew has been a volunteer with the Banff Food Bank for years before she got the idea of starting the food rescue in fall 2016.

“Alanna’s efforts have changed the face of Banff’s food system,” said FCSS community development coordinator Jill Harrison, who nominated her. “She is filling the gaps, eliminating the weaknesses and reducing waste. By supporting community programs and breaking down barriers she is enhancing social connectedness and engaging community members of all ages and stages in life, from the most vulnerable to the most socially involved.

“Alanna literally changes lives for the better every day.”

Pettigrew said the inspiration to begin Banff Food Rescue came out of her work at the food bank and her previous experience working at a grocery store. She knew there was food going into the landfill, and what was offered at the food bank wasn’t necessarily meeting the needs of the community.

It led to her approaching local grocery store managers to start the initiative, which continues to be run out of her home on Cave Avenue.

“The thing about food rescue is there are no barriers to food and that is what I love about it the most,” she said. “You don’t have to identify who you are, where you work, or why you need food. If you can save the food and if the food helps you, then all the better and I know it has helped a lot of people.”

It has been so well received in the community the biggest complaint she gets is there are no volunteer shifts left for the many helping hands who want to be part of the food movement. The program has been so successful it is looking for new space in the community to house the food rescued daily and those accessing it. It has also resulted in other food rescues starting up, like the successful Canmore Food Recovery Barn.

“I think it would be nice to have something that is a little more formalized and also somewhere people can gather and chat a bit more,” Pettigrew said.

YWCA CEO Connie MacDonald said Change Makers is an opportunity to recognize the valley’s strong female leaders as part of the organization’s commitment to inspire positive action on International Women’s Day.

“It is really a day of global awareness where all kinds of people come together to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and to advocate for greater action to create an equal society,” MacDonald said.

“The theme for International Women’s Day is press for progress and it really is a call for all of us to be leaders within our own spheres of influence. We need to take bold pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity and this year International Women’s Day comes on the heels of what I would call an unprecedented global movement for women’s rights for equality and for justice.”

Hall-Findlay is a world-renowned expert, teacher and mentor in her field of medicine – plastic surgery – and has had a practice in Banff since 1983. She entered medical school at a time when women were discouraged from pursuing that profession and has been a change maker in her area of focus.

“Elizabeth goes above and beyond to encourage women, support women, and give them the tools to make their path successful,” said nominator Colleen Critchley. “Her largest success will be the legacy of women she has mentored, expecting a high degree of excellence of both the men and women she has worked beside.

“Elizabeth is a leader because she supports others to become leaders.”

Widmer-Carson was head of the Banff Canmore Community Foundation for 12 years as its executive director and helped the organization establish a community-focused grant program. She is a champion for age, diversity and gender balance on committees and boards of directors, and has provided invaluable mentorship to young adults.

“Lorraine’s drive and enthusiasm energize the staff, volunteers and people who work with her,” said BCCF board chair Bill Fisher, who nominated her. “She has constantly demonstrated a ‘can do’ attitude in her work and many community programs and projects have Lorraine’s fingerprints and words of encouragement all over them.”

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