People & Places

Operation Ramzieh acts swiftly, with kindness, to deliver food to vulnerable people at home

Established in just 48 hours, Operation Ramzieh has already sourced and delivered thousands of food kits to seniors and other vulnerable people in the city. 

Operation Ramzieh is the brainchild of Addis Mahmoud, owner of the restaurant group DreamMind, which includes Drama, The Waverly, Moscow Tea Room, Happy Fish Raw Bar, and The Hudson. The project is named after his mother, who inspired the idea; Elgin pub The Waverly is its distribution point.

Need help? Want to donate? Visit the Operation Ramzieh page here.

“We originally started off by saying to ourselves ‘let’s see how far we can get,” says DreamMind marketing director Ilon Tyan.  Mahmoud kickstarted things by putting in funds and resources equalling $50,000. After reaching out online for volunteers, Tyan could barely keep up with the volunteer registration process, with hundreds signing up to help. Within a day, community donations were coming in, reaching $60,000 by end of day on Thursday, March 19.

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With the groups’ many connections in the local food supply industry, much of the food was donated or purchased at cost. Chef Andrew Craig crafts the grocery lists, focusing on bulk orders from their existing suppliers.

Tyan takes comfort in the fact that much of the food would have gone bad, and many of the businesses involved would not have recovered those costs. “This helps the economy because it at least isn’t a full complete loss, and it’s keeping staff employed,” Tyan says. 

“They gave us some really cool stuff — gourmet pasta, for example. From Saputa, we got shelf-stable milk.  This is more than we ever expected. And we’ve been able to stretch them into modest kits.” 

Using the group’s Elgin Street restaurant, The Waverly, as a distribution point, Operation Ramzieh is also trying to assemble tailored kits for vegetarians and others with dietary restrictions.

Tyan invites anyone who is able to volunteer or donate.

“Theres’ always something to do,” says Tyan, noting that afternoons are spent repacking the food from commercial deliveries into individual kits.

“We were generously overrun with donations, but those went out quick,” he adds. 

As Operation Ramzieh grows, Tyan and his team will be looking into improving their logistics software so they can mobilize more volunteers. They’ve been contacted by Toronto and Montreal with inquiries, and though they are not there yet, Tyan says he imagines it could be built into a larger network, beyond the city’s boundaries.