CALGARY -- Over 100 Calgarians in need were able to enjoy hot, prepared meals Friday thanks to a collaboration between a group of Calgary students and a local business looking to give back to the community.

Zero Waste YYC, an organization made up of post-secondary students, distributed over 100 meals prepared by a Jerusalem Shawarma located in Country Hills.

Despite increased awareness of those need due to the pandemic, there are still several members of the community struggling to obtain basic necessities.

“Since COVID-19 we’ve seen a spike in donations, but at the same time there’s lots of community members who can’t get the food that they need,” said Fatima Saleem, 19, and co-founder of Zero Waste YYC.

While the emphasis of Zero Waste YYC was originally to gather and distribute excess food, Saleem said the dynamics have completely changed since the start of the pandemic.

“We were entirely dependant on excess food, but since businesses started to shut down we’ve seen a spike in meal donations, hand sanitizer, groceries; those things are great to have,” said Saleem.

As organizations such as Zero Waste YYC work to distribute the food and goods, some local businesses are in overdrive to meet demand.

Support and contribute

“I work 18-hour days, seven days a week,” explained Diaa Abufarha, owner of Jerusalem Shawarma at Country Hills Landing in the city’s North-West.

“We know a lot of people even before the crisis had a hard time affording food, so we’re trying to help out,” said Abufarha of his donations. “It’s a lot of work, but thanks to God, we still have jobs, we can still support and contribute.”

In recognition of the month of Ramadan, the Jerusalem Shawarma franchise as a whole plans to donate 10, 000 hot meals over the next 30 days.

Just prior to hitting the road with a trunk stuffed with hot meals, Saleem stated she will continue giving her time and effort for as long as she can, “I feel like if you have the opportunity to contribute, if you’re not sick or worried about money, it’s a great place to be to help those who are in need.”

If you would like to join or donate to Zero Waste YYC, their Facebook page can be found at: