Hoping to alleviate some of the issues Calgarians face when it comes to food, Zai Mamdani founded YYC Food Security Fund in 2019, a not-for-profit initiative rooted in the principle that there are better, more holistic ways of ensuring equitable food access.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 27
YYC Food Security Fund founder Zai Mamdani says every dollar contributed to the program directly enables and empowers every Calgarian to Dine with Dignity. 📷 Submitted
Zai Mamdani // Founder, YYC Food Security Fund
A Calgary not-for-profit looks to help food security
Each day, more Calgarians have to face the reality of food insecurity as inflation and the rising cost of food have become an ever-growing problem for the city. Hoping to alleviate some of the issues Calgarians face when it comes to food, Zai Mamdani founded YYC Food Security Fund in 2019, a not-for-profit initiative rooted in the principle that there are better, more holistic ways of ensuring equitable food access. The initiative really took off during the pandemic as more gaps in the food ecosystem were brought to light. The idea behind YYC Food Fund is to strengthen the overall food system and give people access to healthy, nutritious and culturally sensitive food that allows them to Dine with Dignity. Calgarians can donate to help support the YYC Food Security Fund.
How has this program impacted Calgarians?
I think the biggest impact on Calgarians, in addition to how it supports the local economy, has been how it has enabled people to access food while maintaining their dignity. Our initial contribution of $10,000 into this project is estimated to have had a $60,000 impact on Calgary’s economy. We’re not trying to replace food banks that play a critical role in our community by providing emergency food relief to people who may not know where their next meal will come from. Instead, we’re working to bring long-term dignity and sustainability to the forefront by addressing food security. Further, as people start to feel the pinch of increased prices of groceries, more and more Calgarians will start to face food dignity issues.
How does the ‘pay-what you-want’ program work?
Over the holiday season last year, YYC Food Security Fund partnered with YYC Growers and Distributors and Fresh Routes to fund a pilot of the pay-what-you-want model through a pop-up market. The goal was to make turkey dinners possible for struggling Calgary families while eliminating the stigma of handouts over the holiday season. The program enabled over 180 families to enjoy an affordable turkey holiday meal from local farmers and had an exponential impact with $160,000 going back into the local economy. The pilot program’s success is what made YYC Food Security Fund partner with YMCA, the Leftovers Foundation and Fresh Routes to start the Pay What You Want Market in January 2022. Currently operating in Saddle Ridge and Shawnessy, the program provides low-income families with the choice of fresh, nutritious, locally-sourced food from farmers. The program reminds people that even when they feel like they are at their lowest, they can still choose what food they put on the table.