Torrey Mattson, a realtor from Medicine Hat, Alberta, found himself at home when everything closed due to pandemic, looking at the situation with an idea forming.
“I kind of walked like a zombie around my house, and my wife was wondering, ‘What’s going through your head right now?’ and I just sat her down and said, ‘I’ve got a crazy idea here,'” said Mattson.
He realized that after restaurants were ordered to stop dine-in service last month there was an opportunity to be found to help. Torrey’s project is simple and innovative. He puts the call out to local businesses to pay for meals from local restaurants which are then frozen and donated to the Medicine Hat Food Bank.
“It wasn’t planned to be just a Christmas project, it was planned to be a food sustainability project as well,” he said. “We heard a lot of stories going around about business closures and people being laid off and things like that … [so] we wanted to do something to help some people out.”
He went to Facebook to explain his idea to friends, family, and associated. He called it The 40 Hot Meal Project; and the goal at the time was to raise $5,000 for 500 meals.
“That night, we already had our first couple of restaurants sign up, and the next morning we had sponsors calling to take part,” he said. “It just took off, and I think we had that $5,000 in the first two days.”
Since then they have gathered nearly $44,000 in sponsorships which has gone to 19 local restaurants, producing more than 4,100 meals for those in need.
“It was a win-win with the restaurants. All they wanted to do was make meals and they no longer could with new restrictions,” he said.
It is also helping out the food banks and the people they serve at a time when fundraising and donation gathering efforts have been hampered.
Matt Peterson, the owner of Moxie’s in Medicine Hat, jumped on the chance of joining the project. “I was able to keep three or four extra people on and not lay them off, which is great,” he said. “To prepare 500 meals takes people, and it was good to be able to keep them around.”
He added he is even willing to donate their own meals, out of appreciation for the effort, and also a desire to help the community that supports them.
Finding sponsors doesn’t seem to be a problem for Torrey. “Every day it seemed like we were setting new targets and setting the bar a little bit higher … Medicine Hat always been a really supportive community.” he said.
As for the food bank? Celina Symmonds, executive director of the Medicine Hat and District Foodbank, says the project has gone seamlessly. “This time we get to be a part of giving back to the people who have always supported us. And so I think that that is also transformational for the food bank. All of a sudden, we’re partners now,” she said. “I believe that this program in 10 years will become the way that food banks operate.”
Some that use the food bank say it has been years since they have eaten a full meal from a restaurant. “It really does touch people. The idea that our community has literally wrapped their arms around them in a way,” she said.
It was a brilliant idea, and has been more successful than anyone could have imagined. And it is certainly worth taking a closer look at; there is even more to read in your Good News Story of the Day, find it in full here.
Mattson says the project will continue as long as businesses continue to sponsor meals. “I would love to see this grow into other cities and other small towns, wherever there’s a need, and quite honestly, we set it up in a way where the framework is really quite simple to replicate,” he said.
Other Albertan communities are already considering it, too.
Story and Image from CBC News.