The Giving Wall at La Boulangerie Bakery and Cafe in Mission. PHOTO: CHARLOTTE HOLMES

Calgary restaurants and those in need are getting a boost through a new initiative that will see people able to buy meals and drinks for those who can not afford it. 

The Giving Wall initiative allows people to buy a gift card or extra food item, adding it to their bill and then attaching the card or receipt to a wall at participating restaurants and cafes for someone who could not afford it themselves. The program has found success when run in other cities. 

Calgary-based food writer Julie Van Rosendaal says the Giving Wall means people can give directly to someone, while also helping local food establishments.. 

“The idea [is] allowing people to directly support not only the restaurants and coffee shops that are needing cash flow right now but to directly support other people in their community, our neighbours in such a direct way, such as buying a meal. [It’s] just an affordable thing for people to do.”

Since the program launched just over a week ago, a handful of restaurants and cafes have already joined, including La Boulangerie Bakery and Cafe, Forage and Thorncliffe Community Association.

“Calgarians are great at looking out for each other and finding ways to do it.”

Julie Van Rosendaal

Tagen Simpson, manager at Forage in Marda Loop, says being a small business, and with resources being tight, the Giving Wall is an easy and great way to support the community and give back.

“The pandemic has shown us how kind of vulnerable people are in terms of their financial stability but also how willing people are to help,” says Simpson. “People really do want to help, and it’s making it easy.”

The Giving Wall serves as a two in one –– supporting restaurants and also feeding those in need, says Van Rosendaal. She also emphasizes the importance of this initiative to help kids who have potentially been cut off from food sources as schools continuously face shutdowns amid the pandemic restrictions. 

“Access has been a big problem throughout the pandemic. When kids aren’t in school, how do you reach them?” she says.

Though the initiative is in its early stages, Van Roesndaal says the Giving Wall has already helped Calgarians who were able to use the receipts and gift cards the past week.

“Calgarians are great at looking out for each other and finding ways to do it,” says Van Rosendaal.

More restaurants and cafes are hopping on board the Giving Wall initiative each day, says Van Rosendaal. No registration is required for food establishments to participate in the program, but the city is offering signage to participants.