YYC Grocery Delivery:

YYC Grocery Delivery is a Calgary-based organization that delivers essential items to senior and at-risk individuals in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This student-led initiative rallies up groups of volunteers to retrieve these items from major retailers and delivers them straight to their clients. Their main objective is to improve access to essential items such as groceries and toiletries while operating under strict guidelines to minimize health risks. 

Our Healthy Cities Team was fortunate to speak with three leads of YYC Grocery Delivery to talk about their experience so far. Our discussion includes reflections from their delivery experiences, how the team overcame recent obstacles and information on how youth can support vulnerable populations.

What specifically inspired you to create YYC Grocery Delivery? (Answered by our Team Lead, Siavash Z)

YYC Grocery Delivery started as a Kijiji ad. I felt incredibly helpless when classes were moved online, and our community was bracing for the COVID-19 pandemic. After a few days of restlessness, I put up a Kijiji ad offering to shop and deliver groceries for at-risk and senior Calgarians. I was immediately overwhelmed, which is why I called up my friends Jack Bieber and Christian Cao to lend me a hand. To deal with demand, we created a request pipeline, began recruiting volunteers and marketed to our target demographic. 

Please describe a memorable experience you have while delivering groceries for Calgarians during COVID-19, and the impact that this experience has had on you (Answered by our Team Lead, Siavash Z)

Instead of focusing on one delivery, I want to share common themes and emotions shared by Calgarians. At each delivery, you’ll find gratitude, appreciation, and mutual respect. You’re practising good citizenship and helping to protect your community in a crisis. The impact for me has been the turnout and support Calgarians, offering to deliver groceries. It has made me incredibly grateful for how Calgarians have agreed to look-out for each other. 

Based on your experience, do you have any tips regarding how students can get involved in meaningful initiatives in support of vulnerable populations during the pandemic? (Answered by our Website & Scheduling Lead, Jack B.)

Getting involved can be a massive help at a time like this, but students must consider the risks first. Those who live with their families may be putting older/more vulnerable people at risk by leaving their homes. Therefore, it’s important to have a discussion with any people you might be affecting when you decide to get involved, and find the safest way to manage risk. Thankfully, leaving your home isn’t required to volunteer; I found a role as the website and scheduling lead in order to stay at home because I live with older parents. The best tip we can offer is to believe in your ability to help. Even though you might feel small and unhelpful, your ideas can make a big difference when you follow through – all you have to do is try! There’s also no need to reinvent the wheel and create a new volunteer organization; existing charities are critical to support in times like this. As a grocery delivery service, we know that the Calgary Food Bank is a great initiative that needs the help of young, low-risk volunteers. If food isn’t your thing, there are tons of other organizations that need help during this crisis. A really great way to find them is the website www.volunteerconnector.org. You can search for causes using filters (including COVID-19) and refine them by including your postal code. Get out there and make a difference!

What are some obstacles that your team has faced in your efforts to deliver groceries for at-risk populations? (Answered by our Website & Scheduling Lead, Jack B.) 

One major obstacle we faced was coordinating orders and volunteers. Early on, everything was managed by Siavash’s Kijiji ad – he had to call every customer multiple times for order details and mass-email all the volunteers, and it became too much. Now we have a dedicated email account linked to our website and a fillable, detailed order form. We upload the orders to a central database that volunteers can view, and this is where they claim orders with a single click. Streamlining really allowed us to grow and solved our other major problem: demand. Many stores have delivery services booked weeks in advance, and we found that even just close friends and family placed more orders than we could accommodate in the very early days. Once we had a stable website and database, we worked hard to grow our volunteer numbers, and now we have volunteers asking for more orders because they are claimed so quickly.

If you could share one message with youth in Calgary who are aiming to support seniors and other at-risk groups during the COVID crisis, what would it be? (Answered by our Volunteer Lead, Christian C.) 

The COVID crisis is one of the most unfamiliar situations for most of us. We’ve adjusted to new routines and are overcoming daily challenges. However, for vulnerable populations, the COVID crisis has become more than just an inconvenience; it has had a direct impact on their quality of life, as leaving the house carries significant risk. Many individuals are struggling to meet their basic needs and are struggling with constant fear and stress. My message to the youth is that it is up to us to rise to the occasion. There is no better time than now to take advantage of our youth to make a difference in the lives of those who are in need. Whether this is through helping individuals access groceries or any other services, we can make a direct, supportive impact.

Are you recruiting other students to help with YYC Grocery Delivery? If so, are there any specific qualifications for volunteers, or other information that we can share with prospective volunteers? (Answered by our Volunteer Lead, Christian C.) 

We are always looking to recruit more volunteers to help increase our capacity for handling requests. Our current qualifications ask that volunteers: have a vehicle and are fit to drive, have a payment method that can fulfill a grocery order, and most importantly, are aware of and comfortable with the risks involved in contracting COVID-19. Before signing up to volunteer, we ask that all volunteers understand that they are increasing their risk in contracting COVID-19 by exiting the house, and this risk may affect themselves and their families. 

Pictured above are Siavash Z. (left) and Jack B. (middle) and Christian C. (right)

Pictured above is a recent delivery from YYC Grocery Delivery

Feature Photo by Scott Warman on Unsplash