Pay-what-you-can Soup Bar serves meals made of food once destined for the dump
New restaurant will give away meals made from ingredients thrown away by restaurants and grocery stores
In a retrofitted shipping container near Dundas Street West and Bathurst Street, Chef Jagger Gordon is giving away free sandwiches and loaves of freshly baked bread.
It's his way of letting the neighbourhood know there's something different about his restaurant, Soup Bar.
"This bread comes from an incredible, reputable bakery," he says, showing off loaves of focaccia and olive loaf.
"Unfortunately they throw copious amounts of it out, but we've made a decision that we'll utilize it by bringing it down here to offer to the public for free."
Gordon's lunches are pay-what-you-can.
On Sunday, he plans to expand and start giving away four different types of soup, made from ingredients he's rescued from grocery stores and restaurants that otherwise would have sent the food to the landfill.
"We look for marginalized food and blemished food, fruits and vegetables," he explains. "There might be a bruise on it, there might be an end that's not looking too healthy. We cut it out and we utilize the perfectly great stuff about it and provide nutritionally balanced meals."
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Gordon is passionate about finding ways to cut down on food waste, a problem he first noticed in his catering business. He now runs the not-for-profit program Feed It Forward, which helps to collect donated and discounted food his team then turns into meals for the less fortunate.
"I get a lot of students," he says. "I get a lot of families. I get a lot of single mothers."
Jennifer Hind is a big fan of Gordon. The social work student was so inspired by Soup Bar, she's asked about volunteer opportunities.
"I think its phenomenal," she says. "There is a crisis here in Toronto with homeless people who are in need, and there aren't enough resources for people who need food."
She also has no qualms about eating meals made from discarded food.
"It was excellent," she says, reviewing her sandwich. "The bread was still fresh like he just got it out the bakery. It wasn't stale. The meat was fresh. No complaints whatsoever."
She also likes the system he's devised to allow people who can't afford their food some dignity to pay for it.
After she puts some money in a pay-what-you-can jar, Gordon gives her a poker chip, which she adds to the donation jar so someone else can get a meal.
"Anyone who's humbled or hungry or doesn't have money in their pocket can come up and use this as a currency," explains Gordon, taking a poker chip and adding it to the pay-what-you-can jar. "There's this revolving cycle of food and money being donated."
Soup Bar isn't the only new initiative he's planning for this weekend.
On Saturday he'll be working with volunteers in Whitby to plant vegetables on farmland acquired by Feed it Forward. Once they're harvested, he plans to give them away to Toronto families in need of fresh food.
He's also working on a project to address hunger among Toronto's post-secondary students. He's hoping to collect more discarded foods, and by working with volunteer staff in a kitchen facility, create what he hopes is an eclectic menu of frozen entrees to be offered to students in need.
"They're living on ramen noodles, or Kraft Dinner," he says. "I get it, but there's a way to feed people healthier and sustained meals."