It’s funny how over the past couple of months I went from having never heard of Mealshare, to now seeing it everywhere I turn! I sat down with their Calgary marketing intern, Breanne, to get the scoop on what this great charity is all about!
Mallory: So what’s the general premise of Mealshare? How did it get started and how long has it been around?
Breanne: It started in 2013 so it’s pretty new. Andrew and Jeremy, the two co-founders, were both in stereotypical 9 to 5 jobs prior to its inception. They were going to school as well, about ready to graduate. What started as an idea for a final year end project led to what is now Mealshare. They eventually quit their jobs, committed to it full-time and built the program up, based on a 1 for 1 model, similar to Toms shoes. The whole idea is that diners can eat at participating restaurants and for every Mealshare item purchased, a meal is donated to someone in need (right here in Calgary).
Mallory: Wow, that’s pretty inspiring. So what should diners know in order to participate?
Breanne: The great thing about Mealshare is that people eat out anyways, so now they can leave feeling like their choice made a difference. It’s like their good deed for the day. Between the 4 cities involved, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria, there are a total of 59 partner restaurants. Calgary and Vancouver are tied for the most, although Calgary is soon to pull ahead with some new restaurants due to sign on this summer. Anyways, you go to a participating restaurant, say Una Pizza or Market. The relevant menu items are labeled as such with a little Mealshare logo. Say you order two of these; one meal gets donated to feed one person at the Drop-In Centre, while the other goes to our international partner, Save the Children.
Mallory: Oh I like that. I always find that you get people who want to donate to their own community first, and then there are others who focus their efforts overseas. It’s a good blend of both. So tell me more about Save the Children.
Breanne: Well the money goes towards producing something called “Plumpy Nut Paste.” Essentially it tastes like peanut butter and is packed with vitamins and nutrients to feed to malnourished kids. They are on the paste for about 6-8 weeks on average and after that, they are back to being a kid again.
Mallory: But the question is, how does it taste?
Breanne: I actually got to try some on our corporate retreat recently and it was really good. Like I said, it tastes like peanut butter, and compared to what they normally get to eat, I really think it is quite the treat for the kids.
Mallory: Ok so moving back a little closer to home, how does Mealshare pick the restaurants it partners with? Do you go to them or do they come to you?
Breanne: Initially restaurants were chosen on the basis of having good reviews, as well as core values that aligned with those of Mealshare. They tried to seek out places where you can get good food (often those having more of a farm-to-table mentality) and consistent service. However, now that things have taken off, restaurants have started coming to us asking to get involved. Much of this can be accredited to Shane from Dairy Lane Café and Blue Star Diner and his involvement in sharing the news about Mealshare to others in Calgary’s culinary community. He has been instrumental in helping Mealshare to catch on in Calgary, even more so than the other cities involved.
Mallory: So how did you yourself become involved?
Breanne: I have always been big into non-profits, getting involved in volunteering, clubs, that sort of thing. This summer I was actually about to accept a job in oil and gas. I had the offer letter and everything but I just wasn’t excited about it. Then I received an email from Mealshare and discovered that they were looking for interns. Immediately I loved the concept and wanted to be a part of it. I took a chance and applied and the rest is history.
Mallory: It sounds like you have definitely bought into the whole process. What’s the feedback like from the rest of the community?
Breanne: I don’t think it’s a fad that’s for sure – it’s here to stay. Maybe one day we can even get a restaurant that serves entirely Mealshare items! We have also invited restaurants to come and volunteer at the Drop-In Centre to see where their money is going and the feedback is amazing. They get to see people eating the meals that they provided. Another thing that diners have really appreciated is the little seed card they receive when they buy a Mealshare meal. You can plant it and wildflowers will grow. The restaurants love the idea too. It is even a great way for servers to interact with the table. When they are excited to talk about it (that is, Mealshare in general), it gets diners excited to participate. We are turning dining out into helping out.
Mallory: Tell me about it, I am getting amped up just listening to you talk about it! So where is Mealshare headed from here?
Breanne: This summer will be a busy one for us with lots of events on the docket. The Food Lovers Urban Market is on June 12 and a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will go to Mealshare. Then there is the Community Cook-off on July 2 with lots of giveaways and prizes. Of course Stampede will be a big time to set up booths and do give-aways. And despite just having had our spring launch on May 8, we are excited to do another one on the July long weekend with new restaurants like The Coup, Yellow Door and Anju joining the team!
Mallory: So much to get involved with! Personally what are some of your favourite Mealshare menu items to-date?
I guess we all better get started taste testing! It sure doesn’t hurt that you are supporting a great cause while you are at it!