Three young minds, one great idea, and twenty thousand donated meals later, Canada’s newest non-profit buy-one-give-one initiative has innovated dining out into helping out.
Back in 2010, Canadian entrepreneurs Jeremy Bryant, Andrew Hall and Derek Juno had just recently started to build their careers and were working toward what some would call a path to success. All three founders were working hard and making good money, but one thing was missing: the fulfillment from the work that they were doing. After casually talking about a buy-one-give-one model that feeds those in need, these commendable team members worked together to launch a visionary initiative known as Mealshare.
The idea, which was launched in July 2013, has now blossomed into a bona fide charitable program and a full-time job for all three founders. With an initiative that simply asks us to, well, eat, little is required of us to make a huge difference. Restaurants that partner with Mealshare have Mealshare-branded menu items which reflect the initiative. By purchasing and enjoying one of these branded menu items, participating restaurants make a contribution to Mealshare, which supports its charitable partners to provide a meal to someone in need. In addition to menu item donations, Mealshare’s donation fund allows you to support the work that they are doing in the dollar amount of your choice.
“It all started with the idea of ‘one for one’ — buying a meal for yourself and giving one at the same time. It’s such an amazing concept because people can tangibly relate to what is happening: you’re getting something, but also doing something for someone else. We have thrown our hearts into this and it’s so rewarding when you can help people and do the work that you truly love to do,” Juno describes.
Currently operational in Alberta and B.C., Mealshare’s goal is not only to support locally, but also internationally. Working mainly with restaurants in Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria and Vancouver, Mealshare has selected charities in each city to support its cause and are proud to be working with local charities like the Calgary Drop-in & Rehab Centre, Edmonton’s Hope Mission, Victoria’s Our Place Society, Vancouver’s Mission Possible and Children’s Hunger Fund to provide meals worldwide.
“When we started Mealshare, we thought it would be cool to support local and international,” Juno explained. “People want to help the people in their own backyards and help people who are really, really struggling for food. It’s nice to have that mix.”
While Mealshare has received some criticism for being a short-term solution that fails to actually teach people how to secure their own food, Juno explains that Mealshare is anything but a quick fix. “We are trying to alleviate the pressure from amazing local organizations to provide food so that they can focus their efforts and funds towards supporting other initiatives like job training, housing, etc; but it does all start with food and that’s why we are doing the work that we are doing.”
With 30 restaurants on board, and counting, these founders are excited to start talking to new restaurants to gain additional support. After taking some time off to revisit current processes and challenge their own model to see what they can do better and differently, Bryant, Hall and Juno are excited to share their idea with other restaurant owners come February.
“We have a ton of goals,” Juno says. “By the end of this year, we hope to be in 100 restaurants, hope to be partnered with a large chain, and want to give away one quarter of a million meals.”
Having accomplished so much in such a short period of time, Juno and the gang are not slacking on speaking with restaurant owners.
"People are hearing about our cause and we are incredibly excited to expand," says Juno. "All we ask for is an opportunity to sit down and explain our model. Once we do, it really works out well and we have had incredible support.”
Admirable and courageous, these driven Mealshare founders will continue to spread their word and develop Mealshare into a program that will feed thousands on a monthly basis. Whether we choose to experiment with a different menu item that is accompanied by a Mealshare logo, or donate to support the cause, Juno encourages restaurant owners to reach out to Mealshare if they would like to help make a difference: “If owners are interested in supporting our cause, we would love to hear from them.”