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‘Personal and professional’

Engineering graduate applies degree experience to mobile food bank

Part of a special feature celebrating and recognizing the Class of 2020 at Memorial.

By Jackey Locke

Saif Ahmed won’t be celebrating his graduation this spring with a European vacation, as planned.

Instead, the spring graduate and new holder of a bachelor of engineering degree has decided to dedicate his time and effort to Project Food for Thought N.L., a community-driven mobile food bank.

It focuses on providing essential food items to anyone facing financial, social, accessibility or transit-based barriers.

New culture

Mr. Ahmed came to St. John’s in September 2014 from Dhaka, Bangladesh, to attend Memorial. He says he faced some challenges adjusting to a new culture, but it didn’t stop him from embracing undergraduate life.

“The process engineering program at Memorial gave me opportunities to develop a mindset of leadership and innovation,” he said. “It gave me access to experiential learning activities, state-of-the-art laboratories and opportunities to become involved in dynamic research projects that are changing the future of engineering.”

Mr. Ahmed adds that the highlight of the program was the co-operative work terms, which provided him with diverse knowledge and hands-on training while working in different industries.

“I was fortunate to have work terms in the oil and gas and mining industries, which contributed to my personal and professional development over the years,” he said. “Those experiences also encouraged me to explore my interests in sustainable development projects and collaborate with people with diverse backgrounds.”

The Project Food for Thought NL team, from left are Fabiha Tarannum, Shourov Islam, Saif Ahmed, Sazied Hassan, Mehnaz Tabassum and Adib Rahman.
From left are the Project Food for Thought N.L. team Fabiha Tarannum, Shourov Islam, Saif Ahmed, Sazied Hassan, Mehnaz Tabassum and Adib Rahman.
Photo: Submitted

Mr. Ahmed co-founded Project Food for Thought N.L. with his fiancé Mehnaz Tabassum, a graduate of Memorial’s Faculty of Business Administration; Ms. Tabassum’s brothers, Adib Rahman and Shourov Islam, both in their final year of business at Memorial; their sister, Fabiha Tarannum, a business student at the College of the North Atlantic; and third-year mechanical engineering student Sazied Hassan.

The idea came to them while sitting at the dinner table one evening.

“We were feeling so grateful to be eating regular meals with our family and thought about all the families in our community that did not have proper access to food due to food banks having to close because of the pandemic,” he said. “We had the skills, resources and networks to start this project.”

Urgency required

Initially, the group planned to help students who were required to leave on-campus residence; however, when they conducted a community survey, the results indicated a much greater need.

Based on the survey results, the group decided they needed to act quickly. They jumped in by using their own resources, as well as support from friends and family.

Since then, numerous local leaders recognized the need for the service and helped Project Food for Thought N.L. establish a commercial location as well as expand its delivery services beyond St. John’s and into Mount Pearl, Paradise, Conception Bay South and Torbay.

“I understand that urgency of finding work terms.” — Saif Ahmed

Project Food for Thought N.L. helps people who have been ordered to self-isolate, vulnerable populations unable to get out for supplies for various personal reasons and those who are losing income due to the pandemic.

The project has not only taken meaningful steps toward creating accessibility for food resources, but has also created job opportunities in these uncertain times.

“We have been working with Memorial’s Division of Co-operative Education and have created five work terms for engineering and business students during these stressful times when many students have either lost their existing offers or are unable to find a job,” said Mr. Ahmed.

Saif Ahmed
Saif Ahmed in his graduation photo.
Photo: Submitted

“Being an engineering co-operative education graduate myself, I understand that urgency of finding work terms.”

Mr. Ahmed and his family have helped 400 families to date and says they are designing a framework for a post-pandemic world.

“The most rewarding part of this experience has been the community collaboration to develop solutions and spread positivity in the community we are serving,” said Mr. Ahmed.

“When I reflect back on my first day of school at Memorial, I could never have imagined that I would be working on a sustainable development project that I co-founded. I am so happy to be a leader in my own community and to be applying the skills and knowledge from my engineering degree to help others.”

To learn more about Project Food for Thought NL, please visit the NL Eats Facebook page or call (709) 330-4399.

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