Feed it Forward, launched in 2014 by chef Jagger Gordon, was created to address the issues of food waste within the industry and tackle food insecurity. The Toronto-based non-profit encompasses a 200-acre farm in Whitby, Ont., a pay-what-you-can grocery store and café in Toronto, a food-hamper program and mobile food-truck program.
But, when government-mandated shutdowns came into effect in March, Gordon, says he was kicked into “battle mode” as he and his team worked to scale up operations to meet the need created by the pandemic.
Despite his catering business drying up due to COVID-19, Gordon threw himself into filling the need he knew would arise. To start, the chef committed to making 30,000 meals out of pocket. But, he put out a call to the industry, which went viral on social media, and donations and additional support started coming in.
“I knew, in our industry, that everyone was going to be shutting their doors and there was going to be a lot of product that needed to be utilized,” he explains. “I was able to open up three different operating kitchens that would continuously make meals with the food we rescued by the ton — we’re talking by the ton every other day.”
At this time, the food-rescue organization was producing approximately 5,000 meals a day and was able to build up around 58,000 frozen meals for what Gordon calls its emergency pre-made meal bank and distribute these through a roster of community organizations.
As founder and CEO, Gordon is the heart of the organization, with his vision being executed through the efforts of the organization’s 2,200 volunteers and partnerships with the likes of the Red Cross, Breakfast Clubs of Canada and Second Harvest, as well as a range of grocery, restaurant and supply partners.
“What I’m so excited about is getting to watch this come alive through networking like this,” Gordon says.
Additionally, Feed it Forward worked with Toronto-based Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) to distribute the meals the company produced through its meal-donation program (see story on p. 32) and is also making pet food from food waste because, as Gordon points out, there are many people who are struggling who have pets and “they’re going to feed their animal first.”
As the crisis endures, the team continues to produce nutritionally balanced meals seven days a week. And, the founder explains, the next step is for others to take the Feed it Forward model and replicate it throughout Canada — especially as regions of the country begin shutting down once again.
“I need to let chefs, restaurateurs, food providers and manufacturers know we need to work together,” Gordon says, stressing it needs to be a co-ordinated effort.
Part of this will be facilitated by the upcoming re-launch of Feed it Forward’s app, which allows “any person in the world that has either cooked a meal or has something they need to utilize the opportunity to share it rather than destroy it.”
The other piece of the puzzle is utilizing the framework Gordon has already established, which is available on Feed it Forward’s website, to set up similar and partner organizations beyond the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
“I would only hope to have this replicated by others that have the same vision, rather than have proprietorship over it anywhere else in the world,” the chef says, noting he has the GTA well in hand. “We have the idea, we have the freezer system, we know where the product comes from, we know where to put it and we now have the capability, through our website and app, [for people to be] able to ask for help.”
As the initiative forges forward, a key challenge Gordon faces is the cost of the sustainable packaging Feed it Forward uses, with the ultimate goal being to establish a reusable-container system. But, he’s confident in organization’s future.
“Together, we’ll move forward because there’ll be a lot of people finally wanting to donate to maintain our integrity,” says Gordon. “There has to be a change and the only way it’s going to change is if we all try together — the possibilities are endless working together…food is not a privilege.”