'We have to step up': Deli owner ramps up pita production for food bank despite COVID-19 hit
Cedars Deli lost roughly 50% of business, but still sends thousands of fresh pita breads to food bank
Samir Omar says baking is in his blood.
So when COVID-19 hit Calgary, he starting doing what many Calgarians in isolation have been trying for the first time — baking bread, albeit on a much bigger scale.
Omar's small family-run pita bread factory in northeast Calgary is churning out thousands of fresh pitas, with many destined for the Calgary Food Bank.
"I truly believe that as Calgarians, as humanitarians, when there's someone in need we have to step up and help one another. Because, ultimately, why are we here? We're here to help one another," said Omar, one of the owners of the Cedars Deli chain and Doughlicious.
"I tell people I was born on a bag of flour," he said.
Baking pita bread is a family passion. Omar said his parents opened one of the first pita bakeries in the city and he, along with his brother Mohammed, is continuing the tradition with Cedars Deli and their bakery.
"People give you that smile you know, even though it's something as small as bread," said Omar.
Three of seven Cedars Deli stores are currently closed as the company deals with its own COVID-19 challenges. The business has taken a hit of around 40 or 50 per cent, according to Omar.
Omar said he's been supporting the food bank for the last six to eight months but despite his own worries it felt like it was time to step up his game.
"I talked to one of the people there and they said capacity there is overwhelming. It's like Christmas time, there's so many people in need right now," he said.
"We're just trying to keep busy. We're the type of people that need to do something. We can't just sit at home, so we're putting that energy into helping other people."
Instead of sending pita bread once a month, he's now baking and sending shipments twice a week. Omar said he's now sending around 800 pitas per week.
With Ramadan beginning, Omar said he's already getting into the spirit.