Local businesses support Ottawa Food Bank by competing in annual food sorting challenge

Fundraiser tests speed and accuracy as teams race to sort and pack 1,000 pounds of items

A team that sorts together, comports together.

Local businesses and organizations looking to give back to their community while creating morale-boosting moments of bonding among staff were quick to participate in Friday’s fun Food Sort Challenge for the Ottawa Food Bank, presented by Escape Manor.

It was the biggest and best year yet for the sold-out fundraiser, which filled the spacious Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park. Inside, some 48 teams of up to 10 members raced to sort and pack 1,000 pounds of food the fastest. 

With music blaring, the teams hustled to organize dried pasta, jars of peanut butter, cans of beans and other non-perishable items commonly donated to the Ottawa Food Bank.

Food Sort Challenge
The Food Sort Challenge, held at the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne, on Friday, April 13, 2018, saw teams compete against one another to sort and pack boxes of food the fastest, in support of the Ottawa Food Bank. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Organizers threw in extra challenges, like having participants don oven mitts to complete their task. As well, rule-breaking contestants were punished by the refs with a mandatory timeout that involved wearing a silly hat.

"I feel shame, I really do," Brian Murray, director of leasing and business development for Sakto Corp., said, tongue-in-cheek, while serving his penalty for putting a food item in the incorrect box.

Food Sort Challenge
Participants in the Food Sort Challenge for the Ottawa Food Bank were given challenges — including having to wear oven mitts. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Food S
Brian Murray bides his time in the penalty box. Photo by Caroline Phillips

First-year participants included Napkyn, a Hintonburg-based analytics and consulting firm. It registered three teams for the event and pretty much had its entire 27-person company out.

“All of our work is in the U.S. and all of us work too hard, so we wanted to take an opportunity to do something for the community and to have some fun together,” founder and CEO Jim Cain, who was joined by the firm’s president, Nick Bennett, told OBJ.social.

Cain, who showed up with his teams wearing hats from Dollarama, got to take a step back from his leadership role, while competing in the challenge.

“I’m pleased to be told what to do for once.”

Food Sort Challenge
From left, Nick Bennett and Jim Cain from Napkyn Analytics with Michael Maidment, head of the Ottawa Food Bank, at the Food Sort Challenge held at the Aberdeen Pavilion on Friday, April 13, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Also new to the event was Magnet Forensics. The software company’s engineering manager, Thusha Agampodi, convinced her colleagues to go head-to-head against their friends at Trend Micro.

Food, she said, plays a contributing role in her workplace. Staff often have shared meals, including breakfast with waffles.

“We have bonded a lot over food, so doing something to help other people who are hungry — because they don’t have enough food to eat — is dear to my heart,” Agampodi told OBJ.social.

Competing like a man wanting to win was Mathieu Fleury.  The city councillor for Rideau-Vanier Ward was part of the Ottawa Community Housing team. He's chair of its board.

Also participating were the Association of Justice Council lawyers, who were easy to spot with their gavel headwear. "Justice lawyers work in service of their communities every day," president Ursula Hendel told OBJ.social. "Phoenix [pay system glitch] has certainly made us aware of what it's like to not be able to count on a paycheque."

Food Sort Challenge
Coun. Mathieu Fleury participated in the Food Sort Challenge for the Ottawa Food Bank. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Food Sort Challenge
The Food Sort Challenge, held at the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne, on Friday, April 13, 2018, saw teams try and sort and pack boxes of food the fastest, in support of the Ottawa Food Bank. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Food Sort Challenge
The Association of Justice Council donned gavel head pieces as they participated in the team-building Food Sort Challenge, held at the Aberdeen Pavilion on Friday, April 13, 2018, in support of the Ottawa Food Bank. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Participants, which paid $1,000 to register a team, could win prizes for fastest team, top fundraisers and most spirited.

Each month, the Ottawa Food Bank helps more than 38,000 people.

- caroline@obj.ca