Combining their business savvy and sense of corporate social responsibility, cousins Jeremy and Bryan came up with a plan to bring restaurants, customers, and charities together in a way that would be valuable to everyone involved: Mealshare! We chatted with co-founder Jeremy Bryant about the project that’s now expanded to Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver:
What’s the story of how this came about? What was the need you saw in the community that it emerged from?
I had done some volunteering in the inner city over the past few years and while growing up. It always amazed me that we have so much wealth and luxuries in Canada and yet there are still people who go hungry in our cities. I wanted to change that, so my best friend (cousin as well!) and I started Mealshare.
Can you share a few examples of how your project works?
Mealshare is a non profit who’s mission is to provide meals for people in need. We do that through partnering with restaurants. We put our logo on a few menu items at our partner restaurants. When a customer orders one of those menu items, we provide a meal for someone in need. Sort of like ‘Toms’ meets ‘Oceanwise’. We provide meals through our partner charities —in Edmonton we are proud to work with Hope Mission to provide meals. The restaurant gives us a portion of proceeds from each Mealshare item sold, and we give the bulk of that money to our partner charities to provide a meal. We also work with Children’s Hunger Fund to provide meals.
What’s the response been so far?
The response has been quite positive! Customers seem to appreciate getting to not only enjoy their own meal, but enjoy knowing that someone else is receiving a meal just because of their choice to order a Mealshare item. We have had interest from other restaurants since launching about joining the program. We wanted to test the model this summer in a few restaurants. We launched in Edmonton and Calgary on July 19 and since then have added one restaurant locally, and expanded to launch in B.C.
What are the three biggest lessons you’ve learned along the way?
First and foremost we have learned to be persistent! Restaurant owners are busy people, and hard to get a meeting with!
Second we have learned to accept help. Andrew and I have needed so much help along the way and have had amazing friends and strangers help us out to get Mealshare off the ground.
Communication is key. Both between partners in a organization, as well as with customers and restaurant owners.
What’s the next level for your project? What are you most excited about that’s coming up?
We are most excited that to date, Mealshare has provided over 1,400 meals to people in need! That is really exciting and fulfilling for us!
Also exciting is that we launched in Vancouver! We have three restaurants on board there — Aphrodites, Darby’s Pub and Gurkha Kitchen. We are really excited about the positive response from restaurant owners we had in Vancouver. It’s exciting to see the concept spread, and knowing that each restaurant that signs up will mean thousands more people in need each year will receive a meal.
If people want to find out more about your project, support it or get involved – what should they do?
There are a few options:
The first (and most delicious!) is to visit a partner restaurant and order a Mealshare item. Ask for the manager or owner and thank them for caring about the community and participating in Mealshare. Let it be known that they came, at least in part for Mealshare. This lets the owners know that people like the idea of providing a meal for someone else, and will encourage them to continue with Mealshare. Try the Fried Chicken at Creole Envie, the Mac n’ Cheese at Noorish or the delicious three-course meal at Culina Muttart — feel good knowing someone else is eating because of the choice too!
As well, we are so excited to hear from people on social media. When people like our page and interact with us it helps us to show restaurant owners people care about this, and that encourages them to sign up. If we got 10,000 people in a city to like our page, we are confident we could get 30 or 40 restaurants on board — and that means a lot of meals are being shared!
You can learn more about or share your thoughts with Mealshare on their Facebook Page.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I met with Tad and was so grateful for his suggestions and support of Mealshare. Also, I attended one of the Green Drinks events and it was really enjoyable and helpful. Helped me connect to a few great people — thanks the Local Good for hosting great things and making awesome things happen in Edmonton!