by Carol Crenna
Taking their parents’ dictum “Don’t waste food on your plate; there is someone less fortunate” to heart, Derek Juno (BCom ’11), Jeremy Bryant and Andrew Hall (BCom ’11) left their lucrative jobs to launch Mealshare, a social enterprise that partners with restaurants to help feed the homeless.
“At age 24, we considered whether we wanted to continue our current careers for the next 20 years or try something unique that’s in keeping with our values,” says Hall. “We considered opening a restaurant and giving away unused perishable food, but our expertise is in creating partnerships, not running a restaurant.”
Mealshare makes it easy for the public to give not just spare change to a homeless person for food, but a hot, nourishing meal. When dining at a restaurant, you simply choose a Mealshare - branded menu item and the restaurant then provides a meal to someone in need. The innovative concept, which combines corporate social responsibility with the “buy-one-get-one-free” model, has Mealshare covering the food costs of the charities’ donated meals.
As part of the partnership agreement with its restaurants, Mealshare completes all marketing including designing, printing and delivering collateral material, event promotions, and traditional and social media campaigns. The resulting promotion and community relations can translate into financial and community profile gains for the restaurant.
Three years ago, Hall, formerly a tech strategy consultant, and Juno, a retail development manager, completed their BCom specializing in Entrepreneurship from UVic and now share these tasks in Vancouver for the BC market. Bryant, an accountant and UAlberta BCom grad living in Edmonton, directs operations in Alberta.
Launched in late 2013, Mealshare today “shares” approximately 8,000 meals per month—1,000 each in Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary and Edmonton, and 4,000 internationally (half of the meals are distributed through a Third World charity). By summer this number is expected to double with six new restaurant partners already slated in BC and Alberta.
Mealshare currently works with 40 restaurants: 15 in Victoria, 12 in Calgary, eight in Vancouver and five in Edmonton. The non-profit organization chooses non-denominational, solution-oriented charity partners. “Someone comes in the door for a meal, but then has the opportunity to get job training, counselling or just a shower to help get their life back on a better track,” explains Hall. “If we help support meal costs, charities can spend more time and money on these initiatives.”
For example, The Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre found that after only seven months, Mealshare’s donation covers a day’s worth of meals and made a significant difference in its fundraising budget.
“Approximately one-million Canadians get food support each month and eight-million Canadians dine out each day. If we can turn some of that dining out into helping out, there is an incredible opportunity ahead of us.”
This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in Business Class Magazine, a publication of the Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria.
PS…Mealshare is also now in Toronto!