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Calgary charity gets thousands of pounds of restaurant food, donations tied to businesses closing amid COVID-19 crisis

Click to play video 'More Calgary restaurants temporarily closing amid coronavirus concerns' More Calgary restaurants temporarily closing amid coronavirus concerns
WATCH ABOVE: As governments advise people to limit gatherings and stay home, it's proving to be another big blow to the already vulnerable restaurant industry in Calgary. Christa Dao has more on growing concerns that some restaurant closures may be permanent. – Mar 18, 2020

An increase in food donations is an unintended consequence of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and something the co-founder of Calgary’s Leftovers Foundation calls “heartbreaking.”

“It’s been completely heartbreaking to see these restaurants temporarily close and voluntarily close,” Lourdes Juan said on Wednesday. “It’s really rough to see people in this position.”

The latest donation came from the culinary program at SAIT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism. Juan said they received 10,000 pounds of eggs, bread, vegetables and other perishables.

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The food was supposed to be used for teaching students in the class but with all classes being cancelled across Alberta, the department decided to donate the food instead.

As governments impose stricter guidelines around social distancing and group gatherings, the new safeguards are another big blow to the already struggling industry.

Dozens of restaurants have shuttered their doors temporarily, with many more expected to do so later this week.

Earlier this week, Juan said they went to other local eateries, cafes and bakeries to pick up food that would otherwise have gone to waste. 

“I think what’s been amazing is the Calgary community coming together, and them not wanting their food to go to waste and wanting it to go to a good cause. It’s sort of the silver lining in this whole situation.”

Juan said they have to pick up food at 18 more restaurants this week, including at Cibo on 17 Avenue. The donated food will go to several Calgary non-profits including the Calgary Drop-In Centre, Fresh Start Recovery and others.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Alberta employers and workers welcome government help, but remain worried

Executive chef Glen Manzer who is the chief operating officer at Creative Group — which owns Cibo — said most of their restaurant staff have been temporarily laid off.

Manzer said the decision to close Cibo and other restaurants under the group was about safety, and social distancing is what everyone should be practising to reduce spreading the virus.

“We closed for our staff safety… We made a decision not to do takeout. We think everyone should just hibernate for the next 14 days,” Manzer said.

A recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found a quarter of business owners believe they won’t survive the next month.

CFIB Alberta director Annie Dormuth said small businesses have been calling non-stop, concerned about how they’ll survive.

“This is another gut punch,” she said.

“This is unprecedented and uncertain times. especially feeling that with the restaurant industry, again, already dealing with low sales and dealing with the downfall of oil and gas and the Alberta economy in general, for them, this might be it for them.”

She’s calling for governments of all levels to do more to support local businesses.

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