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Jeremy Bryant, left, who co-founded a charity called Mealshare with his cousin, Andrew Hall.

Handout

The organizers: Jeremy Bryant and Andrew Hall

The pitch: Creating Mealshare

The reason: To address food insecurity

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When Jeremy Bryant and Andrew Hall were growing up they were constantly told by their grandmother to finish every meal because there were starving people in the world.

The cousins took little notice of the stricture until many years later. “We got to travel around the world a little and realized that hunger was a big issue,” Mr. Bryant recalled.

After graduating from university, the two landed jobs in finance and consulting but felt unfulfilled. “We thought we would love to have a little bit more impact in the world than just working for these big companies,” Mr. Bryant said.

They quit their jobs in 2013 and launched Mealshare, a national non-profit organization that provides meals for at-risk young people. The group partners with restaurant owners across the country who designate items on their menus as “Mealshare.” Every time a customer orders the item, the restaurant chips in $1 to the organization. The money is handed over to local charities that provide meals to young people in need. Mealshare also contributes donations to Save the Children Canada for a food program in Ethiopia. Mr. Bryant and Mr. Hall, who are both 31, manage the operation from their respective homes in Edmonton and Vancouver.

Before the pandemic, Mealshare had teamed up with around 500 restaurants and an equal number of charities ranging from school meal programs to Boys & Girls Clubs, homeless shelters, food banks and breakfast clubs. As COVID-19 pummelled the hospitality industry, Mealshare lost roughly 300 restaurants and had to drastically scale back its operations.

The non-profit got a major boost this month when A&W Canada signed up all of its more than 1,000 locations as partners. “We were in a really, really difficult place after COVID,” Mr. Bryant said. “This A&W partnership essentially saved Mealshare.” The partnership means the organization can reach 300 new communities and charities, and they’ve now set a goal of distributing 1.25 million meals this year.

“We’re feeling excited. We’re feeling hopeful,” he said. “We’re also feeling thankful.”

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