Welcome to our first episode of the series Food for Thought. My name is Michelina Martinez and I am a 5th year Hotel and Food Administration student. This semester, I had the great pleasure of working with Professor McAdams on an independent study to create a series of short documentaries. The three organizations I interviewed in the GTA were: Feed It Forward (Toronto), Paintbox Catering & Bistro (Toronto), and 541 Social Eatery & Exchange (Hamilton).
This idea struck me this past winter; in Toronto there were more homeless people left to brace the harsh, frost-bitten -20°C winds than available beds in local shelters. I asked myself, “How is it possible that so many beautiful restaurants and shops can thrive so abundantly in the same city that people on the streets call home? Why does so much food go to waste in the city without a second thought, and simultaneously, we fail to consider how we can be better stewards of our resources?” Unfortunately, change has been slow on issues around food security because many of us have never experienced shortages in food availability, thus making us value food as a whole much less than we should.
In Prosperity Without Growth, Tim Jackson wrote: “Prosperity speaks of the elimination of hunger and homelessness, an end to poverty and injustice, hopes for a secure, and peaceful world…In pursuit of the good life today, we are systematically eroding the basis for well-being tomorrow. We stand in real danger of losing any prospect of shared and lasting prosperity.” Thankfully we haven’t been left empty-handed and have the gift of education to present more and more convincing arguments for government regulations to address the need for change in sharing our prosperity (see what the Straws Suck movement has done!).
Drawing from my interactions with these three organizations, it was evident they truly understood how to embrace the people – those who are hurting for change – in their respective communities, and their passion spoke for itself in each of their visions. The aim of the Food for Thought series is to raise awareness about how business can be used for good and how it can create shared value (CSV). Different from corporate social responsibility (CSR), creating shared value seeks to create economic value for society and addresses its needs and challenges. Instead of focusing on just the bottom line, I want to challenge businesses who claim that they are driving sustainable change to see how they can create meaning through pure motives that benefit their less fortunate neighbours. Therefore, over the course of the next three weeks, I am inviting you, my fellow UGSRP readers, to join me in this radically humbling journey to observe how these sustainability warriors are striving to make a meaningful change. It is my hope that these short documentaries will give you some “food for thought” to empower you to be a part of this meaningful change in your respective workplace, home, and community.
This week’s spotlight will feature Feed It Forward.
Feed It Forward (FIF) is a not-for-profit organization started by Jagger Gordon who is a chef and caterer and faced the heart-wrenching reality of food waste every day. He decided to take a stand against it in 2014 and began the operation “Feed Families”. With 40% of food produced in Canada ending up in landfills and 1 in 7 people living in poverty, the “Feed Families” freezer program provides hearty, nutritionally-balanced meals for qualifying families on a monthly rotation. Through the Good Samaritan Law, Chef Jagger sought out the help of food producers in the GTA with the same vision of eliminating food waste to make this program possible. Having grown into what we know today as “Feed It Forward”, Chef Jagger and his team of volunteers provide meals every Monday on the east side of Nathan Phillips Square to Toronto’s homeless, economically vulnerable, and anyone who identifies themselves as being in need. During the summer, they run the Soup Bar, which is the city’s first pay-what-you-can restaurant situated in a shipping container. This concept has caught like wildfire with neighbouring restauranteurs, farmers, and bakeries who have added their support to donate food to this cause.
Speaking with Jagger and seeing his volunteers, who sacrifice their free time to do this for people they have never met before, gives me great hope that the slow change I mentioned earlier will pick up its pace in upcoming years. With Chef Jagger running on 4-5 hours of sleep each night (because he spends his days managing his catering company to fund the FIF or going around different kitchens in the city to run FIF programs) it felt like I met the living definition of the saying, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” His passion to repurpose food waste for the benefit of the less fortunate is infectious and there are many ways we can help too! I believe getting involved with an organization like Feed It Forward will really help put things into perspective, especially when you begin to see the gratitude of those who receive help. Such was the case with the FIF Executive Assistant, Samantha Van Clieaf. Samantha had actually been a recipient of Chef Jagger’s help when she stayed at a women’s shelter across the street from one of the FIF program locations during a very difficult season of life. She couldn’t help but notice the incredible work that Chef Jagger and his small team was doing and the impact it was having on the surrounding community. So deeply affected by the work of FIF, she then began to volunteer herself with them, and now sits as an important member of the board.
I aspire to be like Chef Jagger and Samantha in the ways they steward the work they do to create greater possibilities for a sustainable future in the kindest and least damaging manner. If you are interested in partnering up with FIF in any way, please direct your inquiries to: email@example.com
If you made it to the end of this post, thank-you for reading my musings. Visit us again next week to see what the 541 Social Eatery & Exchange is doing as a local Hamilton leader with a global perspective!