Social entrepreneurs Jeremy Bryant and Andrew Hall are not intimidated by the challenges associated with addressing a complex and widespread problem like world hunger. Since launching their Edmonton-based non-profit Mealshare.ca in 2013, these entrepreneurs have fed healthy meals to over a half million hungry people.
The idea for the startup came about when the founders, who are also cousins, travelled throughout Asia, Africa and South America and were disturbed by the hunger they observed. When they returned back home, they realized that it is not just third-world countries affected by hunger. “There are people who can’t afford to eat in Canada and right here in our home city, Edmonton,” says Bryant.
Thirteen per cent of the population in Canada does not have reliable access to affordable, nutritious food and over 850,000 people use one of more than 400,000 food banks every month, according to Food Banks Canada, a national charitable organization dedicated to helping Canadians living in food insecurity.
Mealshare is addressing the problem through partnerships with local restaurants. By way of these partnerships, Mealshare is providing the opportunity for diners-out to purchase meals for someone in need, at the point of purchase. Participating restaurants select high-volume menu items and place the Mealshare logo next to them for easy identification. Each Mealshare item purchased by a customer provides a meal, with the same dollar value to someone in need.
“We don’t find it acceptable that one in nine people are hungry,” Byrant explains. According to Mealshare.ca, the world produces more than enough food to feed its inhabitants. The company argues the issue of hunger lies in food allocation, not availability.
Mealshare planning to grow within Canada
Since launching in 2013, Mealshare has grown to encompass six team members, including community managers who lead local initiatives across Canada. “Surround yourself with people who are better than you. When you do that, awesome things happen,” says Bryant. He credits much of his success to his colleagues, whom he describes as his best friends. “I work with an incredible team every day.”
In 2016, the team plans to expand to Ottawa and Montreal. Mealshare currently has operations in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria and Toronto, along with 30 smaller communities scattered throughout the country.
Working with partners to share meals internationally
While Mealshare has partnered with many Canadian charities and organizations, such as the Breakfast Club of Canada and Youth Employment & Support Services, they have also expanded the program to an international level by working with Save the Children.
"We chose a Canadian domain because we're proud to be a Canadian organization, and by using .CA, it helps to communicate that to the public. As Canadians, we want to help our neighbours and we went to see everyone do well. At Mealshare, that’s what we’re all about. People taking small action to help people in need. Canada has been an amazing place for that." Jeremy Bryant, Co-Founder, Mealshare
Anyone who wants to join the movement can get involved by helping spread the word, encouraging a restaurant to join the program, dining at Mealshare partner restaurants or donating to the non-profit.
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