A&W feeding local kids through Mealshare program 1 out of 3 kids struggle with hunger

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Every A&W Beyond Meat Burger purchased on Mondays will now help feed youth in need in the North Grenville community and beyond.

This initiative is through a partnership with Mealshare, a national charity which works with restaurants across Canada to provide meals for underprivileged youth. Participating restaurants choose one menu item where each purchase directly translates to a meal provided to a youth who is struggling to get enough to eat.

Vice President of Mealshare, Derek Juno, says many people don’t realize how much of an issue youth hunger is in Canada, with one in five children struggling with food insecurity. The pandemic has only exacerbated this issue and experts are now estimating that one in three youth are not getting the proper nutrition they need to fuel their day. “We’re the only G7 country that doesn’t have a national school feeding program,” Derek says, “It’s a much bigger problem than people think.”

The pandemic has not been easy for Mealshare, as many of their 1200 restaurant partnerships were put on hold as the industry struggled to survive. All Mealshare’s 17 staff were laid off; however, every one of them stayed on in a volunteer capacity to make sure the organization stayed afloat. Derek says they had been talking to A&W about participating in the program prior to the pandemic and were able to come back to them in early 2021 to see if they were still interested. “They had a discussion amongst them and said you know what, if we’re going to do this at all, we should be doing this now, when Canadian families and kids are in the most dire need,” Derek remembers.

On February 1, Mealshare launched their partnership with A&W featuring the Cheddar Bacon Uncle Burger Combo as their Mealshare item. Since February, North Grenville residents have shared 425 meals with youth in need locally through the Kemptville Youth Centre, and internationally through Save the Children Canada. The partnership has shared over 400,000 meals to date across the country and are on track to hit half a million by the end of this month. A&W even suggested switching up the Mealshare item every quarter to keep the public engaged and interested in the initiative. “They have been amazing,” Derek says. “They realize that because we are connecting a local charity partner to each of their locations across Canada, they’re literally having a real and direct impact on youth food insecurity every single day. They’re really trying to make this program as strong as possible.”

While half of the meals stay within the community and half are provided internationally, Derek notes that most of the funds raised actually stay local. “We realize that a lot of our restaurant partners really want to be supporting kids in their own backyard, so we wanted to make sure that our program reflects that, and that its hyper local wherever we are,” he says. “Because local meals cost more than international meals, about 80% of the financial contribution stays in the backyards and is going to the local charity partner.”

The Mealshare Beyond Meat Burger is now available every Monday for residents to enjoy and participate in ending youth food insecurity in the community. There is also the opportunity to make any item a Mealshare on any day of the week by adding $1 to your order.

Derek is passionate about Mealshare because he has seen first-hand how hunger can affect youth across the country. He believes that in an affluent country like Canada, no child should be coming to school without breakfast or lunch. “Kids need sustenance to grow and learn and have the best foot forward,” he says.

For more information about Mealshare, and to find more partner restaurants in the Ottawa area, visit their website at www.mealshare.ca.

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