YESS x Simons Art Show

On July 13-15, Simons and YESS collaborated to highlight our longstanding relationship with a wonderful celebration of art at the Simons WEM location. This incredible event was a beautiful showing of the various kinds of artistic gifts and talents of YESS youth artists, Simons staff artists, and YESS staff artists alike. Guests enjoyed an exhibition of eclectic creativity including beautifully crafted bead work, monochrome sketching focused on the visual power of black, white, and shades in between, colourful and emotive paintings of acrylic on canvas, watercolor and digital art, and multimedium projects.

In addition to a beautiful gallery of 85 pieces of amazing art, we were also able to give six youth the opportunity to create art live in the store, together with participating Simons and YESS staff artists.

For the past 11 years, Simons has been an incredible champion and support of the YESS art program. Providing funding for supplies, artists in residence, and program coordinators, Simons has empowered youth to explore various media types and develop their artistic knowledge and skills.

Yvonne Cowan, Director of Store Operations, Simons WEM, has seen the growth of evolution of both the art programming and the youth as artists. “In these exceptional times it is our hope that the interactive arts activities in YESS programs continues to provide youth with an opportunity to engage their creativity, continue their path to hope and healing, and celebrate their strength and courage through the visual arts.”

Why is art an important aspect of YESS programs? Art therapy is instrumental in helping youth work through difficult experiences and emotions. Art promotes self-expression and personal independence, and encourages the development of healthy coping strategies. Making art builds strengths such as decision-making, teamwork, positive self esteem and mastery, self-soothing abilities, overall mental wellness, and the ability to express oneself in a healthy manner. These are all skills that youth at YESS need in order to succeed, and many of them have been able to take their art practice and use it in ways that serve them best.

Melissa Mukai, Program Coordinator at YESS, facilitates the youth art program and coordinated the space for youth to do live art in-store for the art show. “We had the opportunity to showcase YESS youth and staff art at Simons WEM over the three days of the art show. In addition to a beautiful gallery of amazing art, we were also able to give six youth the opportunity to create art live in the store. We, the youth and YESS staff, were met with nothing but kindness and warmth from the Simons team, with them going above and beyond any expectations I had to make a safe and enjoyable experience for the youth. Our youth represented YESS beautifully; they were total professionals, and it really was a joy to see them so welcomed and supported out in the community.” 

A huge thank you to Simons for their unwavering support of YESS and for hosting our spectacular collaborative art show. We appreciate their dedication to showcasing the artistic brilliance of young minds, which is truly remarkable.

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Community Spotlight: Edmonton’s Food Bank

Interview with Hailey Helset, Agency Depot Engagement Manager at Edmonton’s Food Bank


Tell us about yourself and your organization!

My name is Hailey Helset and I am the Agency Depot Engagement Manager with Edmonton’s Food Bank. I started as a summer student in 2019 working to build hampers for people in need before I finished my degree in criminology. When I graduated in April 2020, I worked the following summer in the same position before transitioning into my current role at Edmonton’s Food Bank. I now have the pleasure of working with 300+ organizations including agencies, soup kitchens, schools, shelters, and food depots across the City of Edmonton.Edmonton’s Food Bank provides food to more than 30,000 people through our hamper programs every month. Of those receiving food through these programs, approximately 40% are children under the age of 18. Edmonton’s Food Bank is, primarily, a central food warehouse and distribution centre for local social service agencies, shelters, soup kitchens, and schools. We raise food and collect food donations from the food industry and other donors. In 2022, Edmonton’s Food Bank collected, sorted, and redistributed 5.9 million kilograms of food.


What kinds of programs and support does Edmonton’s Food Bank offer, and how do you see the impact of these programs? What is the ripple effect of creating food security?

Edmonton’s Food Bank has many programs to reduce food insecurity. These include: 

  • Hamper programs that provide food hampers for individuals and families
  • Food for partner programs that provide about 400,000 meals and snacks every month
  • Supporting Nutrition for all Classes and Kids (S.N.A.C.K) for schools and child-focused agencies
  • The Beyond Food Program that assists people with job readiness and personal supports such as assistance with resume writing and job searches, safety tickets, referrals, and much, much more

These food programs help directly with food insecurity and relieve one source of concern. By supporting food needs, we help people free up their monetary resources for rent, utilities, or other important expenses. We also often hear it helps to know there are people in the community supporting them through their difficulties. Our Beyond Food Program decreases food insecurity by helping people to increase their employability and earning potential or by maximizing the supports they receive. In 2022 the Beyond Food Program assisted over 800 clients. It is only with the support of the community that we are able to make these positive impacts for the people we serve.


Like YESS, Edmonton’s Food Bank has a long legacy in Edmonton. How do you continue to evolve to meet the needs of the community?

Edmonton’s Food Bank was Canada’s first food bank! We have been operating for 42 years and continuously evolving to help meet the needs of our community. Our annual client surveys show what is most needed. For example, our Beyond Food Program was created after our 2015 survey. This summer we opened a new building that will feature a pantry to help provide other access for our clients. We provide mobile hamper depots to meet clients in their own neighbourhoods where barriers exist.

Edmonton’s Food Bank does “food” really well, and to help move toward lasting change we continue to collaborate with other agencies assisting people in need to provide the best network of resources possible to people. 


What is one thing you wish the community knew about people who access Edmonton’s Food Bank?

That it could be anyone! All it takes for many people is one unexpected large expense or loss of a job and they can quickly need our assistance. We have people who were donors become clients and people who were clients become donors. We are here when you need us.

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Congratulations to YESS Chef Tiffany Sorensen, winner of the Janet Hughes Award from Edmonton’s Food Bank!

In May, YESS Chef Tiffany Sorensen was awarded the Janet Hughes Award from Edmonton’s Food Bank, which honours an individual’s commitment to direct food relief and solving the underlying causes of hunger. Tiffany has worked in our kitchens and programs for almost eight years, not only providing nutritional food for youth but also teaching cooking as an important life skill.

Tiffany was nominated for this award by YESS Chief Program Officer Jessica Day, and President and CEO Margo Long. This award from Edmonton’s Food Bank is named after Janet Hughes, the first chairperson when Edmonton’s Food Bank was formed in 1981.



As the Program Kitchen Coordinator for Youth Empowerment and Support Services (YESS), Tiffany Sorensen considers food, meals, and nutrition as more than mere necessities. Instead, she sees them as powerful tools that can aid young people in healing from trauma, developing resiliency, and acquiring new skills that can benefit them for life.

YESS youth come from a variety of backgrounds and regardless of their unique experiences, they are all experiencing trauma. Tiffany weaves this understanding into her work and prioritizes providing a safe and supportive space with interactions rooted in compassion and kindness.

Tiffany works with youth to educate them about food safety, nutrition, and fundamental kitchen skills, preparing them for their eventual transition to independence. She encourages young people to voice their opinions and preferences regarding food, allowing them to participate in creating the weekly menus or requesting homemade meals for their birthdays. By doing so, she fosters healthy relationships and addresses the underlying trauma associated with food and food security.

Tiffany has been deeply influential in supporting and collaborating with food bank locations within Edmonton. As our liaison, she fosters relationships with both locations and expertly manages expectations, communication, access, and resource supports. Her careful attention and nurturing demeanor make a meaningful difference in the lives of our youth, who feel empowered to ask for assistance thanks to her work reducing the stigma surrounding support-seeking. Even throughout the pandemic, Tiffany’s dedication and advocacy for our partners have remained unwavering.

In addition to her partnership-building skills, Tiffany has also leveraged her talents to produce short videos that demonstrate creative ways to use food bank items in both simple and complex meals. Her innovative approach to food inspires both our youth and staff, and she infuses each interaction with compassion and kindness, recognizing the unique trauma that our youth have experienced.



Did you know…

You can cook along with YESS Chef Tiffany too! Check out our playlist of Tiffany’s cooking videos for all sorts of meals, snacks, beverages, and treats!

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