Loaf: A ‘Real’ Lesson in Community Service

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Story by Doug Fisher

In Fernie, B.C., Claire and Phil Gadd, owners and operators of the 70-seat casual restaurant, Loaf, had to do what many others across the country did — close up shop in an effort to help the country socially distance and lay off dedicated staff. The Gadds had to lay off 23 staff members, many of whom had worked for Loaf for more than three years.

In an attempt to avoid financial ruin, the Gadds decided to launch a new takeout service in addition to delivery and something else so inspiring it made me realize Loaf was a special place.

The Gadds offered “a nutritious meal to anyone in the community who needed it, regardless of their ability to pay.”  And by anyone, they meant the sick, old, vulnerable and unemployed. For a family whose business effectively disappeared, this act of kindness is exceptional. Their offer to the community resulted in an initial (unsolicited) donation of $2,000 to support their efforts. 

Surprised by the donation, The Gadds had to determine how to distribute food to a new group of people who may not have been on their radar before. They knew they had to first connect with key players in the community who could help direct their efforts to get their food out to those in need. So, they made connections with community partners, including the Salvation Army, the Elk Valley COVID Support Team, Fernie Fresh Foodshare and the Fernie Housing Association, which manages low-income units such as Tom Uphill and New Horizons residences in town. 

Then another surprise — Sysco Canada donated more than 1,000 lbs. of fresh produce, most of which was cleaned and donated to the Fernie Foodshare Program and Trinity Lodge (where 29 senior residents and a warden are in voluntary lockdown).

They then used the initial donation money to purchase rice, dairy and proteins (ground beef, chicken breast, stewing beef, et cetera), which they combined with the remaining to produce to create full meals. They also purchased baking ingredients to make bread twice weekly and containers to portion the meals ready to be distributed.

In the past two weeks, this small-town restaurant has made approximately 100 loaves of bread, 400 meals (soups, stews, chilli, veggie sides, rice, et cetera) and a dozen grocery boxes. Fresh food now arrives daily and the laid-off staff come in and volunteer their time to cook, package and deliver product to those in need.

As this restaurant family gives of themselves, the Fernie community is helping them by financially supporting the program’s food expenses. Within days of the first donation, another $2,500 was raised, which goes directly to food costs as the Gadds are donating their savings, time and operating costs.

My closing thought: A derivative of the word restaurant is to ‘rest’ or ‘restore.’  In my career, we focused on this core principal concept – people come to our places to rest and restore their soul, their relationships and their bodies.

It’s a great pleasure to watch the Gadd family and their staff reach into their community, to roundup support, coordinate with those who serve ‘those in need’ and to help restore this local community’s soul.

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