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Chris Brown, owner and head chef of Victor Dries Catering Company, on Jan 13 2021.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The organizer: Chris Brown

The pitch: Creating Made with Love

The reason: To provide meals to people in need

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When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last spring, Chris Brown nearly lost his Toronto catering company.

“My business went from going full gangbusters to absolutely nothing,” Mr. Brown recalled.

Instead of folding up completely, Mr. Brown got in touch with his friend Nick Saul who is the chief executive of Community Food Centres Canada, a charity that offers a variety of programs to help people grow, cook and share food. “He had the idea of getting donation money and producing food for people who need it most,” Mr. Brown said.

That conversation led to the creation of Made with Love, a non-profit venture that encourages companies to “put their unused food and entertainment budgets to good use”. In return for a donation to Community Food Centres, Mr. Brown produces wholesome meals for frontline health care workers and families in need. The charity identifies the recipients and so far Made with Love has distributed 40,000 meals across Toronto. A $10,000 gift translates into 1,000 meals.

Mr. Brown makes all the meals at cost and he’s been able to rehire four cooks from his business. He’s been joined by the Ascari Hospitality Group, which is also cooking Made with Love meals in Toronto.

Food insecurity has soared during the pandemic and Mr. Saul has estimated that it affects one in seven Canadians. Meanwhile, the food service industry has been devastated by COVID-19. “I know this is a Band-Aid and that this is not a solution to the whole problem,” Mr. Brown said. “But I really think that now is the time we need a Band-Aid.”

He’s expanded Made with Love to Winnipeg and hopes to go farther. “I want to take this national,” he said. “It honestly feels like I’ve been training my whole life for this moment.”

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