A group of Edmonton teens have been coordinating safe delivery of food and supplies to Edmonton’s Food Bank during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Afia Rehmani founded United4Yeg after struggling to find volunteer opportunities during the pandemic.
“I started to realize that it brought a lot of hardships for people like, economic-wise, and in those ways, so I started to think maybe I could just create a community organization, and go from there,” Rehmani said.
“I feel like without the pandemic, I wouldn’t have even created it because before we were all so set in our daily routines. And I think the pandemic really kind of made me realize a little bit more about the outside.”
United4Yeg is made up of six Grade 12 students: Rehmani, Fatima Shifa, Chhaya S.Chandra, Quinn Downes, Katherine Lyu and Jessie Singh.
Most recently, in December, United4Yeg coordinated a food drive. The group collects donations by doing door-step pickup before delivering the items to organizations such as Edmonton’s Food Bank. Their food drive raised 337 kilograms of food within a week.
Doug Hunter, resource development assistant at Edmonton’s Food Bank, said at the beginning of the pandemic in March of last year, the organization reached an all time high with more than 26,000 people reaching out for services.
“Those numbers ebbed after that thanks to the CERB support. But we were still navigating closed depot locations, there were many challenges,” Hunter said, adding the agency was still averaging well over 20,000 people per month.
He is working with other food-drive groups like United4Yeg and loves the engagement coming from Edmonton’s young people, stepping up to help during the pandemic.
“These are the leaders, the educators of the future, these ladies and the young people that are helping,” Hunter said. “To be able to have that time to impart our knowledge of food insecurity, and just share what’s happening in Edmonton with them so that they can be advocates for us and be advocates for those that are food insecure going forward in their future careers; (it’s) a win for us.”
United4Yeg’s next effort will run from March 26 to March 31, with a focus on toiletries, diapers and hygiene products for the food bank. Rehmani said the group can be contacted through their United4Yeg Instagram and Facebook accounts to coordinate pickups or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rehmani hopes to continue the work of United4Yeg following the pandemic.
“People are in need all year round, whether there’s a pandemic or not. So I feel like if our little organization can help anyone in any way, at any given time, then that’s just all that I’d like,” she said.
— With files from Ashley Joannou