British Columbia

Charity fighting hunger with restaurant meals plans big B.C. expansion

Mealshare partners with local restaurants to fight youth hunger every time a meal is ordered. On Tuesday, their roster of participating Lower Mainland restaurants is set to expand by a third.

Mealshare program provides meals to hungry children at home and abroad

A publicity photo shows Canadian children eating meals paid for with Mealshare donations. The organization is planning a big expansion of participating restaurants in the Lower Mainland. (mealshare.ca)

A not-for-profit organization that combines dining out with giving to the less fortunate is planning a big expansion in the Lower Mainland.

The Mealshare program has 63 partner restaurants in the region, but on Tuesday that number will jump to 83.

"One in four kids around the world is malnourished. And one in five right here in Vancouver live in poverty," On The Coast food columnist Gail Johnson told guest host Gloria Macarenko.

"So, together, the [founders] decided to dedicate their careers to … turning dining out into a way of helping out."

At participating restaurants people will find the Mealshare logo next to certain menu items. When someone orders those items, the restaurant gives $1 to Mealshare, who direct it to local and international charities dedicated to ending hunger in children and youth. They say just one dollar is enough to provide a complete meal to a child in need.

Johnson says Mealshare is about more than handing out free food: they use food as a catalyst for long-term change.

In one case in Mali, they partnered with Save the Children Canada to provide food for 9,000 kids at 15 schools and 70 early childhood development centres.

"At the start of the three-year project, primary school attendance was 36 per cent. But by giving these kids healthy meals, Mealshare essentially incentivized school," Johnson said. "By the end of the project, attendance went up to 81 per cent.

"The goal was for those communities to be self-sustaining. They built canteens and taught community members how to grow crops and raise animals for food. Now, all of those learning centres are completely self-sufficient."

In the Lower Mainland, Mealshare has partnered with KidSafe Project Society, a Vancouver charity that provides essential services to more than 450 vulnerable kids and youth during school breaks.

They are also seeking charity partners in Lower Mainland municipalities outside of Vancouver.

You can find a list of participating restaurants here.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

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