Fall 2023 Comfort Food
COMFORT FOOD | Newsletter
From Client to Fundraiser
Yasmin’s journey of belonging at the Calgary Food Bank
An employee at the Calgary Food Bank, Yasmin thoughtfully shares memories of growing up, coming of age and beginning a career. She was born and raised in Alberta to Somalian refugee parents. Her father unfortunately was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when she was young and needed round-the-clock care in a nursing home as he battled this diagnosis. That left her young mother raising 3 little kids in a strange land. Yasmin vividly remembers this time in her life, “When I was about 10 years old; I remember my mother picking us up on the last day of school. She took a deep breath and drove us to the Calgary Food Bank. I remember waiting in line to collect our hamper and looking around at the hundreds of buzzing people. I did not fully understand what was going on or why we were there, all I knew was this is a place people go, to get food.” That’s it! “Smiling, friendly people filled our shopping cart, with each step more and more food piled up. Now, I know those wonderful people were volunteers.” The Calgary Food Bank filled her family’s fridge and pantry that day but what Yasmin remembers even more clearly, what has stayed with her, the memory of the volunteers smiling and waving, quite simply she says, “It filled my heart.” Yasmin says that those smiles, the palpable feeling of support from those volunteers years ago, still live within the walls of the Calgary Food Bank today and stayed with her as she grew up. “I actively volunteered in my community, Ogden. I was out every day after school with youth groups, leadership classes, and community volunteers doing anything and everything we could to make the lives of those around us just a tiny bit better. The Volunteers at the Calgary food bank showcased to me that anyone from any walk of life can make a difference, as cliché as that might sound. Anyone can choose to offer a helping hand with 100% compassion and 0% judgment.”
Yasmin and her partner Trevor
“When I was about 10 years old; I remember my mother picking us up on the last day of school. She took a deep breath and drove us to the Calgary Food Bank.”
Yasmin pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Calgary majoring in history and English. Once she completed her post-secondary education, she landed a part-time position at the Calgary Food Bank as a Client Services Assistant. In this role she worked on the front-line interacting with clients and working with those same volunteers she remembers so fondly from her visit over a decade before. Soon after, Yasmin was promoted to Supervisor of the call centre. This is the first touchpoint for clients, often referred to as the “voice of the food bank”. In this position, Yasmin supervised volunteers and talked with people needing food support. The experience working in Client Services had a profound effect on Yasmin, “Calgary is a big city, and we all fall into and stay in our bubbles, but when you talk to and meet so many different people, you get a rare glimpse into others’ bubbles and begin to understand their challenges. Being able to provide them food, and hope is, monumental.” A position in fundraising and events opened up in another area of the Calgary Food Bank and Yasmin’s easy nature and ability to connect with people made her a perfect fit for the Community Engagement team. Only 2 months on the job, she says that while generous donors from all walks of life want to “give back”, they are especially interested in knowing that their donations of time, treasure, and talent are having an impact on the lives of Calgarians who need it most. And because of her experience, she is easily able to assure them.
“I hold onto the memory of my experience here as a child, in every interaction I have with clients, volunteers, staff, and donors. Nobody deserves to go hungry, and everybody can help.”
Partners In Action
City-Wide Food Drive
This year, The City-Wide Food Drive brought in close to half a million pounds of food! Thank you to all the volunteers who made this possible. A special note of gratitude to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for their service to the City of Calgary. 8,000 volunteers help make this collection happen.
The TransAlta retirees and many helping hands harvested over 64,000 pounds of fresh food at the Get Growing Gardens! Carrots, onions, squash and potatoes will end up in our Emergency Food Hampers and distributed to community partners to support those who need it most. A huge thank you to all of the gardeners, farmers and community groups who participated in our Grow-A-Row event this year.
The Calgary Food Bank Welcomes A New Chief Development Officer
Last month Sheryl Barlage joined the Calgary Food Bank as Chief Development Officer. She oversees the Community Engagement (CE) team which includes events, fundraising, corporate industry giving, communications and marketing. Sheryl has an extensive background leading capital campaigns, rebranding, corporate partnerships, and events management. Having built strong teams, programs, and systems in these areas, Sheryl will lead the Calgary Food Bank in growing its donation base, public awareness, external relations, and stakeholder engagement.
Sheryl has worked in several leadership roles across the non-profit sector including Junior Achievement Canada, The Alex, Calgary Homeless Foundation and the Alberta Cancer Foundation. She led the $120M RESOLVE Collaborative Campaign, a nine-agency effort to build affordable housing. Sheryl remains committed to growing funds, food and awareness for Calgarians facing food insecurity and furthering the mission and vision of the Calgary Food Bank.
Please join us in welcoming Sheryl. We are fortunate to have her here.
On September 29th Calgary Food Bank staff and volunteers gathered for a simple ceremony to mark the 3rd annual Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Orange Shirt Day and to unveil our Land Acknowledgment.
A Word From Our CEO
As we head into the final months of the calendar year, I can’t help but reflect on 2023 at the Calgary Food Bank. This year, we have seen unprecedented demand for our Emergency Food Hamper Program. During our 2022/23 fiscal year (September 2022 – August 2023), we distributed 149,909 emergency food hampers, supporting over 380,000 individuals in our community. This was made possible because of the 146,000 volunteer hours served, $20.6M funds donated and millions of pounds in food contributed from individuals, community groups, and corporate partners.
Once again, we invite you to help make a difference this year. The gift of time means that hundreds of families and individuals who reach out to us daily can receive the food support they need. The gift of food helps ensure the emergency food hampers are full of quality items for a whole week, for every member of the household. The gift of funds means we can keep the trucks on the road and can ensure a well-balanced food hamper with the purchase of additional items. No matter how you choose to give, your impact is critical. Your generosity helps envision a future where no one goes hungry. Thank you and on behalf of everyone at the Calgary Food Bank, we wish you a wonderful holiday season and look forward to a bright new year ahead!
With the season of giving fast approaching, we are so grateful for our community’s support in helping to raise food and funds. There are loads of great opportunities to get involved:
Calgary Co-op and Calgary Transit are teaming up for the 35 Annual Stuff-a-Bus in support of the Calgary Food Bank. On Saturday, November 18th, while visiting your local Co-op Store, please purchase a few extra non-perishable items and help us “stuff a bus”!
MAYOR’S ANNUAL CHRISTMAS FOOD DRIVE
Mayor Jyoti Gondek and city councillors challenge one-another to raise the most amount of food and funds over 2 weeks. Reach out to your local councilor to find out how you can get help. The drive kicks off on November 18th and continues throughout the holiday season.
CBC ANNUAL FOOD DRIVE
Beginning December 1st through December 14th tune into CBC to hear stories of kindness and hear about fun ways to get involved. Stay tuned for more details of bake sales, Knox United Christmas Carol Concerts, CP Holiday Train and more!
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