Regina restaurant has given 2,000 pizzas to people in need due to COVID-19
Deepansh Mohan says many of those who accepted offer of free food are in high-risk groups
While Canadians have been facing increased food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, one Regina restaurant has stepped up to help.
Deepansh Mohan, the owner and manager of Fritou Chicken, says his restaurant has given away approximately 2,000 pizzas to families in need since March.
As Saskatchewan was beginning to close down and business at Fritou Chicken was slow, Mohan says he got a call from a family who was struggling to feed their kids.
"They were asking — since they can't afford the food — is there any way they can get a pizza or something?" Mohan said. "So I went to their home and delivered a pizza, and I saw, like, eight kids sitting and waiting for food.
"It was really melting my heart, and I [thought] 'you know, I have so much food sitting at my store. Why don't I start giving it to people and see if I can help someone?'"
At the time, Mohan had extra food in the restaurant that was going to spoil if it wasn't eaten, so he decided to offer pizzas to any neighbours who needed a hand.
"I started posting on Facebook and social media, [saying] that if anybody needs help, please contact me," he said. "If you need food, don't sleep on an empty stomach, just let me know."
And the calls started pouring in. While Mohan is making fewer deliveries now than he was at the start of the pandemic, he estimates he is still getting between 15 and 20 calls per day.
Many who have accepted Mohan's offer of free food have been in at-risk groups for COVID-19 — including elderly and disabled people — as well as many living in precarious housing situations.
While Mohan has noticed the positive impact of government assistance over the last few months, he says there is still very much a need for more income and food support in the community. He has now expanded his free menu, offering chicken, burgers, wraps and even small grocery packages as well as pizzas.
Mohan has also been keeping his employees at work throughout the pandemic, and he says they have been eager to participate in this food delivery project.
"They said they were ready to support [this work] rather than sitting out," he said. "They agreed, and then we started working all together. In that way, they kept getting paid and the employment kept going."
And, he says, the community has been grateful for the help — people have been leaving thank-you messages in voice mails, on Facebook and on cards sent to the restaurant.