Hospitality Heroes: Mealshare founders aim to end youth hunger in their lifetime

0
22

From a young age, cousins Jeremy Bryant and Andrew Hall were taught to appreciate what they had. “There are starving kids in Africa who would love to have those vegetables,” their grandmother would admonish them when they’d feed their brussels sprouts to the dog at family dinners.

Although their initial plan to mail their sprouts to Africa didn’t come to fruition, the Calgary natives never stopped thinking about how to help others. And, after working corporate jobs, they decided to explore what else life had to offer.

“We didn’t want to dedicate our whole careers to making big businesses bigger,” says Hall. “We were looking for something more meaningful we could do together. So, we quit our jobs — I actually got a leave of absence — and started Mealshare.”

Mealshare — a social enterprise that connects restaurants with charities in their community — launched in July 2013, teaming up with four restaurants. It now has partnerships with more than 500 restaurants across North America and has served more than 3.4-million meals to date.

“We know restaurateurs are asked for donations all the time, and they’re busy, so we created a program that makes it easy for them to give back,” says Hall.

Restaurant owners put the Mealshare logo next to select menu items and, for each one sold, restaurants contribute $1 to Mealshare. “[Operators] pay us at the end of the month for every meal sold and we use that money to provide a meal to youth through one of our partner charities. We don’t actually build the meals ourselves, we work with partner charities in the communities we’re in.” The organization also works with Save the Children, which provides meals to children in Africa.

The first two restaurants to join Mealshare were Blue Star Diner and Dairy Lane Cafe in Calgary. Craft Beer Market was another early adapter, participating at its locations across Canada. In October 2019, A&W Canada signed on to support the initiative through a month-long campaign. For every Mushroom Mozzarella Combo purchased at 54 participating A&W locations in Saskatchewan and Ottawa, one meal was provided to youth in need through Breakfast Clubs, Boys & Girls Clubs and food banks.

And it’s not just restaurants taking notice. Last fall, Bryant and Hall received Meritorious Service Crosses — an honour recognizing Canadians for exceptional deeds accomplished over a limited period of time that bring honour to our country.

Mealshares’s focus for 2020 is retaining its existing independent restaurants while looking for new partnerships and opportunities across the country. “We’ll continue growing along the same path we’ve been on, which is each year we try to launch in another new city or two and also expand within our existing cities. We have ambitious goals to be in 2,000 restaurants across Canada by 2022 and to be providing four-million meals per year. We’re not going to wipe out hunger by staying the same size and we’re probably not going to end hunger by ourselves. But we want to be a big piece of that conversation.”

Hall says his real dream, “is to tell our grandkids about hunger, just like our grandmother did, but we want to tell a different story. We want to tell them how there used to be kids who were hungry and there aren’t anymore. We want them to think we’re telling some old crazy grandparents’ story — for it to be unbelievable for them.”

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.