Calgary

'We have to step up': Deli owner ramps up pita production for food bank despite COVID-19 hit

When COVID-19 hit Calgary, Samir Omar starting doing what many Calgarians in isolation have been trying for the first time — baking bread, albeit on a much bigger scale to help feed struggling families.

Cedars Deli lost roughly 50% of business, but still sends thousands of fresh pita breads to food bank

Paying it forward with pitas during COVID-19

CBC News PEI

1 year ago
0:56
This Calgary company is donating hundreds of loaves of bread despite losing about half of their business. 0:56

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.

Puffed up pita breads come out of the oven at Samir Omar’s northeast bakery. These breads are destined for the Calgary Food Bank. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan McGarvey

Journalist

Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist focused on filing stories remotely for CBC Calgary’s web, radio, TV and social media platforms, only using an iPhone and mobile tech. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at: dan.mcgarvey@cbc.ca or tweet him @DanMcGarvey

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