CALGARY -- The CP Holiday Train won't be making its usual run this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but food banks in communities along the route will still receive support.

A virtual concert will be held instead, aimed at drawing attention to food security issues and ensuring donations go to food banks that normally host Holiday Train events.

“COVID-19 has created many challenges for communities across our network and has only increased the need at local food banks and food shelves,” said CP president and CEO Keith Creel in a release.

“It is our honor to continue to donate to communities across our network this year, even if the train itself will not run. The spirit of the Holiday Train program and the Christmas spirit will carry on this year through our virtual concert. We will have the Holiday Train rolling again spreading Christmas cheer as soon as it’s safe to do so.” 

Started in 1999, the Holiday Train travels across Canada and parts of the northern U.S. each year, raising money and collecting food donations while drawing attention to the important work food banks do.

In that time, $17.8 million has been raised and 4.8 million pounds of food collected for local food banks. 

“We are very excited that CP has chosen a safe way to keep the spirit of the CP Holiday Train rolling in support of local food banks like ours in these challenging times,” said Calgary Food Bank president and CEO, James McAra.

“The need for food bank services has risen substantially over the course of this year and heading into the high-demand winter months. We hope CP’s concert will prompt the train’s supporters to give as generously as they’re able.” 

Details of a benefit concert are expected to be released in the coming weeks.

 “We support CP’s decision to hold a virtual concert instead of hosting events that encourage local gathering, though we’ll miss the train’s bright lights and in-person shows,” said Kristine Martin, president of East Side Neighborhood Services, a Minneapolis-based Holiday Train beneficiary food bank.

“CP’s generous donations to East Side Neighborhood Services over the years have helped us provide nutritious food to people who have difficulty accessing traditional food shelves or grocery stores. This year, being able to continue providing those services has been even more important. We’re thankful to CP for their continued support and donations again this year.” 

CP says it intends to resume operating the annual train tour in 2021.