The Urban Action Pitch-Off Night in Calgary was the opportunity for our Future City Builders Cohort to present their projects to our panel of qualified judges, and their fellow community members. For months beforehand, our cohort worked to identify Calgary’s urban food challenges, brainstorm solutions to these challenges, and turn those solutions into viable project pitches. The stakes were high at the pitch-off, as not only was there $5000 at stake, but dozens of community partners working in Calgary’s food, non-profit, and start-up scenes attended the event.
The evening began with a speech from Calgary’s Deputy Mayor, Shane Keating, about the importance of “greening” Calgary, and encouraging youth civic engagement. Next, Joshua Bateman and Eloise Hirst, the Calgary City Leads, defined the challenges in Calgary’s urban food system for the audience. Amongst these challenges were Calgary’s unusually short growing season, exorbitant levels of food waste from the city’s grocery distribution centres, and the city’s reliance on international food shipments. Josh and Eloise then explained the 30Lab process, thanked our partner, Evergreen, and our champion, RBC, and finally introduced our judges for the evening. There were four judges for the pitch-off; Robert Plitt from Evergreen, Nibal Fisher from RBC, Jeny Mathews-Thusoo from Calgary’s Resiliency Office, and finally, Laetitia Chrapchynski a young, renowned chef in Calgary who is heavily involved in the city’s sustainable food movement. Robert Barnard, Robert Plitt and Nibal Fisher all gave brief speeches to the audience before the Future City Builders cohort began their pitches.
There were five pitches in total, each addressing a different urban food challenge in Calgary. The first team to present was CompoStart – a paint night with paint made from food waste. This team hoped to address Calgary’s indifference towards food waste through a fun, but educational event. Next to present were EasyGreens, a pitch to place several vending machines around the city stocked with locally grown and produced salads, tackling youth’s challenge accessing healthy and affordable food when they’re on the go. We then heard from The Sharing Kitchen, a peer-to-peer mentoring program teaching Calgary’s youth how to prepare meals for the week. Youth who participated in our survey reported that food prep knowledge was a barrier to healthy eating. The penultimate presentation was from WhoGarden – a website to match landowners with urban farmers in Calgary. They hoped that this website would resolve the issue of land-access for Calgary’s youth, and green the city simultaneously. Last, we heard from Feed Your Flat, a modular, personalized gardening kit for apartment-dwellers, modified depending on the customers’ gardening experience, balcony-size, sunlight, etc. Their project was created to address youth’s report that they do not have the knowledge nor land on which to grow their own food.
The judges and audience then deliberated on the five pitches before delivering their choice. Each audience member was given three votes to place in the boxes of their preferred teams. While Josh, Eloise and Kristina counted these votes and determined the winner, the judges gave their feedback to the teams and recommended community partners for them to connect with. Finally, Josh and Eloise announced the winning tea – Feed Your Flat! The vote was extremely close, but ultimately both the audience members and the judges decided that Feed Your Flat was the most viable and needed solution in Calgary. Feed Your Flat had already created prototypes of their modular boxes, surveyed over one hundred youth about their gardening needs, and identified people to participate in a pilot. This demonstrated to the audience that their project was already in action, that there was a clear need for the product, and that the team were highly committed to making their idea a reality. All four other teams connected with community members – some even offering to discuss hosting projects out of their own organizations. As a result, at least two other teams intend to launch their project in Calgary and are currently seeking out community partners and funding with our help.
Urban Action Pitch-Off Night in Calgary brought together over one hundred Calgarians, inspiring them to discuss Calgary’s urban food system and to support our city’s youth. Our five teams left energized by the community support and we look forward to seeing their projects launch and change Calgary for the better.