Food security duo hopes to find new donation sources
As hundreds of local restaurants have been forced to close their doors amid the pandemic, one local charity is striving to keep them in business and feed Calgarians in the process.
The YYC Food Security Fund launched a new campaign, supported by the Place2give Foundation, just before Christmas to provide a “buffer” for the food industry by buying up local foodstuffs at fair market value and employing laid-off industry workers.
They've partnered with the Leftovers Foundation, a charity that works with local service providers to take edible food left over from restaurants, bakeries and distributors, and get the goods into hampers for those who need it most.
Zai Mamandi, founder of the YYC Food Security Fund, said the need goes beyond the issue of hunger in the city.
“There are over 400 organizations that are doing hamper delivery in Calgary, which is great, but the question kept coming up that this is a Band-aid fix,” Mamandi said. “Donations could dry up because of our economic situation in Calgary and ... those farmers, small businesses also need to survive.”
The “upstream” look at food insecurity inspired Mamandi to bring together industry representatives from a variety of sectors to find a way to support struggling local businesses and partner with agencies already working to feed Calgarians in need.
“From an upstream food cycle perspective, I think the need is going to be there for multiple years to come, and the recovery process is going to be a difficult one for a lot of these farmers and producers who may not make it through 2021,” Mamandi said.
“The focus for the next shortterm period has to be in understanding the situation more, spending some time learning where the struggles lie.”
The Leftovers Foundation has hired five delivery drivers and one food assessor to create much-needed employment for those in the industry out of work.
“For every $1 we spend, we get a $6 return back into the economy,” she said. “And then go further than that. We're exploring how can those that can afford to put money into the food system supplement those that can't.”
The 30-day campaign has a fundraising goal of $10,000, which will help supplement the driver and assessor's wages to support the system and stimulate the economy.
In the future, Mamandi said the organization will be looking at changing policy around “rescuing” food, which certain restrictions make difficult.
“If we need to play a role in adjusting those, that requires funding. That can't be dependent on a bunch of organizations working in silo, we need to come together and say how do we make a collaborative impact here.
“They shouldn't necessarily have to produce their T4 slips and talk about how poor they are,” said Mamandi.