A fresh approach to fundraising

It’s a bit of a chicken and egg story. Which came first? Charitable giving or using food to give?

Think of the home-made squares at a church bazaar, and all the chocolate bars you bought to send somebody’s kid to hockey camp, or those impossible-to-resist mint Girl Guide cookies (the troupe that sweeps my neighbourhood does it on roller blades). Using food to raise money for a good cause may not be a new idea, but several local companies and organizations are adding a new twist.

Sherwood Park-based cookie company Confetti Sweets sells cookies at several farmers’ markets and on their website, (they are very good, by the way, the coconut cookie was rated one of the Tomato Top 100 things to eat in Edmonton this year). They added a fund-raising component to their business in April. Owner Kathy Leskow saw a slower time in their business cycle (October-April) that they could use to do something a bit different, and decided to help local groups raise money for various projects.

The pressing need in Sherwood Park? Hot lunch programs.

It’s a win win — groups get to work with a local company, Kathy gets to keep her part-time staff (mostly high school students) in hours, cookie lovers get a nice treat, and groups have a relatively easy way to make some cash. Kathy says it has been great for business so far; it’s brought them some positive attention; the goodwill generated has been gratifying; and it’s been great for cookie sales at the farmers’ markets.

Who doesn’t love a warm and restorative bowl of soup?

Who needs that soup more than families in crisis?

“Soup is a simple yet powerful gesture that sends a message of care and concern in every bowlful,” says Soup Sisters founder
Sharon Hapton.

Hapton created a new concept of giving through food, a modern take on the community supper: Soup Sisters relies on people who come together to make soup for shelters. Its simplicity relies on a lot of volunteer planning and labour, which is part of the process. Groups or individuals register for a soup-making session (Edmonton sessions are held at Sunterra Commerce Place, schedule at soupsisters.org) and prepare the soups with guidance from the chef/facilitator. After the prep, everyone sits down together to enjoy a soup supper and listen to a representative speak about the shelter. From the first soup-making session at the Cookbook Company in Calgary in 2009, over 100,000 bowls of soup have been delivered to Canadian shelters; about 8,500 servings per month across the country.

There’s a trend to make it easy for people to give, such as by leaving your change behind at the grocery store, or by texting a number on your phone. Jeremy Bryant and Andrew Hall are trying to stop hunger by making the give as easy as having dinner.

Their organization, Mealshare, donates a meal to someone in need.

Here’s how it works: a restaurant identifies a dish with the Mealshare logo and when the diner orders that dish, a portion of the purchase price goes to Mealshare. They use the proceeds to buy meals at Hope Mission in Edmonton, the Drop in Centre in Calgary, and Children’s Hunger Fund internationally.

Restaurants in Edmonton include Culina Muttart, Nourish and Creole Envie. Nourish has partnered Mealshare with their popular mac and cheese; Culina Muttart’s Thursday night dinner is entirely Mealshare; and Creole Envie donates from sales of both the fried chicken dinner and the vegan version.

Jeremy said they wanted to work with organizations who provide meals, both locally and internationally, and to do something that was easy to understand for diners — a meal for a meal. They hope to provide a marketing service to the restaurant by partnering with Mealshare, bringing positive attention by being part of the program.

After a mid-summer start in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, the duo plan to take the program across the country. Jeremy says they are closing in on their
2,000th meal.

Lethbridge area farmers Wayne and Anne Wikkerink’s foray into the dessert business started like this: they adopted their son Joseph, now six, from Haiti. Their other two boys, JR, 14, and Dawson, 12, wanted to help the orphanage that had been home to Joseph. “JR had always loved messing about in the kitchen,” says Wayne. He came up with an ice cream-like, gluten and dairy-free dessert, which they subsequently started selling at local farmers markets along with their free-range chicken and grass-fed beef. Soon, sales of the dessert were outstripping the meats. Along the way came another son from Haiti, Daniel now 4. They now spread their donations from the sale of each tub of Screamin’ Brothers across many different charities that benefit children.

“We’ve learned there’s an opportunity in the marketplace when you can capture people’s imagination and back it up with taste, “ says Wayne.

Screamin’ Brothers is in the dessert freezers of grocery stores across Alberta and British Columbia.

Soup Sisters
Edmonton volunteer coordinator: Carol Knott

Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Jeremy Bryant

Screamin’ Brothers
Lethbridge, JR Wikkerink

Confetti Sweets
Sherwood Park, Kathy Leskow

By Mary Bailey.

Mary Bailey sold World’s Finest Chocolate bars while at elementary school.