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Charity -- With a Side of Good Food

Published June 19, 2018 13:58

Source https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/food/charity----with-a-side-of-good-food-485891262.html

According to a recent poll, about a quarter of Canadians eat at a restaurant once a week.

The poll, conducted by Ipsos Reid and the Canadian Restaurant Food Association, also found that on average, we purchase about 1.7 meals a week.

Other, grimmer statistics show that one million young people in Canada are food insecure. In Winnipeg, almost one in four children live in poverty.

Mealshare, which operates in Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, is a social enterprise that aims to take advantage of the first two statistics to help combat the latter two.

The program, which launches in Winnipeg today, was created in 2013 by Calgary-born cousins Andrew Hall and Jeremy Bryant, formerly a consultant and an auditor, respectively.

The concept is straightforward. Restaurants designate a dish on their menu as a Mealshare item, using an orange logo — a fork spanning two plates — to identify it. When diners choose that item, the restaurant gives $1 of the proceeds to Mealshare, which in turn forwards the money to a charity that works to feed children and youth.

Participating local restaurants include Pizzeria Gusto, the Merchant Kitchen, Confusion Corner Bar & Grill, both Fionn MacCool’s locations, Little Goat, Teo’s, Mona Lisa Restaurant Italiano, all Stella’s locations and Kevin’s.

Each restaurant is free to choose its own Mealshare contribution. Fionn’s will designate a dessert selection, while Stella’s will have a rotating feature on a chalkboard. Teo’s has chosen its most popular menu item.

"I don’t think the founders of the company actually knew how wonderful Winnipeg is in terms of how we love to give back and love to help each other out when we can," says Chantal Lacoste, the Winnipeg community leader for Mealshare, who used connections from her years working at Moxie’s, Earls and Teo’s to get restaurants on board.

"It’s kind of exploded. My goal was six restaurants and I’m at 16, and I’m meeting with more next week."

Half of the meals the program provides stay local. In Winnipeg, Mealshare has chosen to partner with Boys and Girls Clubs of Winnipeg, which operates community-based clubs offering free programs and services to children and youth aged six to 18. There’s an emphasis on teaching them the importance of healthy living and social development via sports programming, arts/culture appreciation, education and career exploration, life-skills development, community involvement and leadership skills.

They also provide an after-school snack or meal to all participants.

"The mandate complemented ours and it just seemed like a good fit," Lacoste says. "There are 11 clubs around the city; that means more kids are going to be reached out to."

Since its inception, the program has provided almost two million meals both at home and abroad. It works by harnessing the ability of charities and food banks to turn $1 into $5, through savvy purchasing and bulk buying.

"We’ve based our formula on $2 from two meals," Lacoste explains. "So in Toronto, it might cost $1.40 for (a charity to provide) a meal; in Winnipeg, it might be $1.20. From the $2, we’re able to give that money, but we’re also able to give to our international partner, where it might cost 10 or 20 cents for their meal." The remainder of the money goes to run Mealshare.

Mealshare’s international partner is Save the Children Canada. Through that charity, the program is providing nutritious meals for schoolchildren in Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world, where food access has been affected by armed conflict.

For more information on Mealshare, see mealshare.ca.

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