On Opelika Road, where Auburn, Ala., and Opelika, Ala., meet, you’ll find a small store with a big impact: the Community Market.
The Community Market, an extension of the Food Bank of East Alabama, serves as a grocery store for those who are in need in Lee County.
Azeem Ahmed, junior at Auburn University, is an Auburn native and has been volunteering at the Community Market since he was seven years old.
Instead of receiving a generic, pre-filled box of food, the market allows the client to select grocery items based on their specific needs.
“It’s designed to let people shop for their food with dignity,” said Ahmed. “It recreates a small grocery store where people can go around and pick the product they want according to their needs. The food bank tries to keep it stocked with a full range of things such as meats, vegetables, canned goods and candies.”
Ahmed started to develop a desire to serve the Community Market more than 10 years ago when he asked for canned goods to donate to the Food Bank of East Alabama instead of presents on his birthday.
“When they first opened the market, my brother and I were really little and our parents used to take us there to volunteer on Saturday mornings,” said Ahmed. “It was a really good way for us to interact with others in the community and help them. It gave us a sense of giving back to the community.”
Ahmed enjoyed the Saturdays at the market so much when he was seven years old that he continued his volunteer efforts through high school and now college, spending almost 1000 hours serving at the market.
As a student at Auburn University, Ahmed was able to spread the word about the market through the Committee of 19, Auburn’s campus organization striving to fight hunger.
“I try to get other folks to come out there with me, especially people who are in the Committee of 19 and involved in Auburn's hunger initiatives,” said Ahmed. “We try to have as many volunteer opportunities we can. It's a great way to interact with folks who are in need in our community and a great hands-on project to fight hunger.”
Though there are multiple ways a volunteer can serve at the market, such as mopping floors or sorting vegetables, Ahmed said his favorite part about volunteering includes two things: talking to others and stocking the shelves.
“My favorite thing to do at the community market is to put cans on the shelves. It sounds boring, but when you're with a group of friends it's cool to put up the cans and talk to people who are being served at the market.”
The Community Market serves more than 900 households each month and is always in need of volunteers. For more information, visit The Food Bank of East Alabama’s website or reach by phone at 334-749-8844.