Restaurants donating meals to community members in need via Mealshare

Alain from PARC serving pasta (Photo courtesy PARC)
Alain from PARC serving pasta (Photo courtesy PARC)

Restaurants across Canada are partnering with Mealshare, a social enterprise non-profit organization, to help end hunger in Canada and around the world.

The concept of the Mealshare program is simple: Restaurants designate at least one dish on their menu as a Mealshare item. For every item purchased at the restaurant, one nutritious and tasty meal will be given to someone in need at a local meal centre. This allows customers to activity give back to their communities, at no extra cost to them.

Terroni's pizza special (Photo courtesy Terroni restaurant)
Terroni's pizza special (Photo courtesy Terroni restaurant)

“Mealshare is such a smart program and they make it so easy to partner with them,” said Elena Di Maria Mammoliti, wife of Cosimo Mammoliti, who owns Terroni in Toronto, and publisher of the restaurant’s in-house publication,

T Magazine. “You just have to agree on placing their logo on the menu, and donate one meal for each Mealshare item sold, and they will take care of anything else.”

Terroni is one of 18 Toronto restaurants that are presently participating in the Mealshare program recently launched in the city, and that number continues to grow.

Mealshare was launched in Western Canada less than two years ago, and has provided over 270,000 meals to people in need since then. The organization now includes 180 restaurants participating across seven Canadian cities, with Toronto being the newest.

We are so pleased to be expanding Mealshare in Toronto,” Derek Juno, vice-president of business development at Mealshare, said in a press release. “We had an initial soft launch in October with a handful of amazingly supportive restaurants, and we are now continuing to partner with some of Toronto’s best-known restaurants to turn dining out into helping out.”

The buy one, give one model that Mealshare uses to promote their program is a little simplified, since the dollar figure that restaurants are donating is $1.00 per Mealshare item. However, Mealshare claims that that’s all it takes to provide a meal to someone in need.

For every dollar that Mealshare receives from restaurants, at least 70 cents goes directly to providing meals for people in need through a local charity. The remaining funds are used to raise awareness of hunger issues in Canada, provide meals internationally through Save the Children Canada, and run the Mealshare organization.

Mammoliti says that Terroni has always been involved in several charitable events, and has worked with Save the Children in the past.

We actually got connected with Derek Juno through someone that worked at Save the Children, and we fell in love with the Melashare program and its outstanding passion. We immediately wanted to become a partner restaurant,” she said.

All three Terroni locations are taking part in the program, with the daily special pizza being the designated Mealshare item. To date, the restaurant has donated 647 meals to Mealshare, with the majority of funds supporting the Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre’s (PARC) Community Meal Program.

Alain Levesque, a chef at PARC, says that the financial support from Mealshare is changing the way they plan meals at the centre.

“90 per cent of the food used for PARC meals is donated, which is fabulous, but unpredictable. It makes meal planning a challenge. Mealshare allows us some flexibility to purchase ingredients that complement the donated food,” said Levesque.

Ann with a plate of holiday food at PARC (Photo courtesy PARC)
Ann with a plate of holiday food at PARC (Photo courtesy PARC)

The funds from Mealshare will also help PARC to be able to offer protein in every meal that they serve.

Nicole Tupechka, a Toronto Community Leader for Mealshare, says the organization hopes that, eventually, Mealshare items will be a standard on menus across the country.

We already have patrons going into restaurants and asking for the Mealshare item,” she said.

While some people may suspect that there is an incentive for restaurants to take part in the program, the truth is that there isn’t much for them to get beyond a little publicity.

“We let restaurants know when they sign up with us is that [the program] provides a remarkable experience for their customers to enjoy, and we definitely give shout outs to them on our social media accounts,” said Tupechka. “But we are limited in what we can offer in terms of publicity and exposure. Honestly, the majority of [restaurants] could do without the social media, they’re more concerned with having an impact as a community partners.”

Tupechka also said that many of the Toronto restaurant partners volunteer at PARC or host their own events to help their communities.

Ryan Donovan, co-owner of Richmond Station restaurant, confirmed that his restaurant is taking part because they want to give back to their neighbourhood.

For us, good food is a right not a privilege,” said Donovan. “It's important that restaurants and chefs continually work to make food accessible to everyone. And good food starts with good ingredients. Mealshare will help local organizations gain the cash flow to buy better ingredients.”

Quinoa salad at Richmond Station (Photo by Shareba Abdul)
Quinoa salad at Richmond Station (Photo by Shareba Abdul)

Mealshare has said that all participating restaurants will be receiving a bi-annual report, which will give them details on how their funds are being used. This will help restaurants decide if they will continue to stay enrolled in the program or not.

So far we have had no problems and some of our guests were so thrilled by this program that they made additional donations,” said Mammoliti. “I am confident that we will keep on being partner with Mealshare.”

To find a Mealshare restaurant in your neighbourhood, visit the Mealshare website and search by city.