Whistler Blackcomb has donated hundreds of pounds of food to Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton food banks 

Part of the 23 tonnes of food Vail Resorts has donated to food banks and soup kitchens in mountain towns across North America

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - The Whistler Food Bank.
  • File photo
  • The Whistler Food Bank.

One of the first things that went through Whistler Blackcomb (WB) executive chef Wolfgang Sterr’s mind after Vail Resorts announced it would be shutting down the resort for at least a week (before later suspending operations for the season) was: What the heck to do with all this perishable food?

As it turned out, WB wound up donating nearly six metric tonnes of much-needed goods to food banks in Whistler (771 kilograms), Pemberton (363 kg), Squamish (454 kg), and Surrey (4,309 kg).

“Fulfilling the requests of the different food banks was really inspiring and it was an effort that flowed from the bottom up and then the top back down, so everyone was fully bought into it,” said Sterr.

The logistics of packing, sorting and shipping literal tonnes of food from WB’s numerous on-mountain restaurants to food banks across the corridor and Lower Mainland was no small feat, however. Stocked up for what was expected to be a busy first weekend of spring break, staff was faced not only with the time crunch of getting products where they needed to go before their shelf-life was up, but also the added challenge of using just a skeleton crew to follow the appropriate physical-distancing guidelines.

“From a logistics standpoint, everything on Blackcomb had to come down on cats and pallets, which was quite difficult. So you have Crystal Hut, Horstman Hut, Rendezvous, Glacier Creek, and then on Whistler, everything is shipped via cart via the gondola, so everything had to be packed onto individual carts, shipped down the gondola, then [to] our warehouse at Springs Lane by the Westin, put on the pallets and then shipped [out],” explained Sterr. “It was a huge, gigantic logistical effort just to get it to the warehouse … We literally had two days to go from 100-per-cent operations to almost zero and get all the food out.”

By the time it was all done, Sterr said some managers had put in 14 days straight. Sterr himself was one of only three staff—along with warehouse assistant manager Eric Brosseau and VP of food and beverage Paul Street—who personally sorted through 20 pallets of food before they were delivered to the food banks.

“I can tell you: I was tired at the end of that day,” Sterr, a competitive ultrarunner, said with a laugh.

The Whistler-based Strategic Alliances team also gathered 1,500 CLIF Bars normally given out in Snow School and donated them to the Whistler Food Bank, along with 100 bottles of vitamin water stemming from a sponsorship with Coca-Cola.

The donation comes at a time when the Whistler Food Bank is dealing with an “unprecedented” level of demand, according to Lori Pyne, interim director of the Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS), which operates the food bank.

The WCSS was also the recent recipient of $5,578 from WB’s Turns for Good initiative on Valentine’s Day, which donated a dollar for every person who rode the Creekside Gondola that day.

Surrey’s Cloverdale Community Kitchen was the largest recipient of food in part because WB has been working with a delivery driver for years who has been involved with the community church that runs the kitchen. The owner of a five-tonne refrigerated truck, WB contacted the driver to help with the large volume of product, and donated whatever leftover food was available after the Sea to Sky food banks were taken care of. Several pallets of food also went to other charitable organizations in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

The local donations make up a portion of the 23 tonnes of food Vail Resorts has given to food banks and soup kitchens in communities it operates in across North America.

A week after a livestreamed Hairfarmers concert raised $48,000 for the Whistler Food Bank—which included a matching $20,000 grant from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation (WBF)—the foundation is hosting another livestream show on Friday, March 27, featuring Dakota Pearl, in support of the Pemberton Food Bank. The organization will match funds raised up to $15,000. The online show kicks off at 6 p.m. More details at facebook.com/events/3115675738457178.

The Squamish Food Bank and Squamish Helping Hands Society will be the recipients of a future livestreamed concert.

The WBF has also extended its April 1 grant deadline to give Sea to Sky non-profits a chance to fully assess their needs in the ongoing crisis. More information at whistlerblackcombfoundation.com.

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