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Pay it forward food program launches in New Tecumseth

March 26, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

A local woman is working hard to ensure town residents who face food insecurity can still access a warm, freshly cooked meal.

About a month ago, Pamela Stewart started up FIFE 4 LIFE, which is a pay it forward food program that provides individuals in need with cooked meals from roughly 40 of its participating restaurants in New Tecumseth.

The program relies on donations, which are made by purchasing an item off of a participating restaurant’s menu and posting the receipt to its FIFE 4 LIFE poster board, where it is redeemed at a later date by someone in need.

“All these restaurants have opened their businesses like their home and that’s been really appreciated,” Stewart lauded.

“There’s sometimes a stigma with certain people but that doesn’t seem to be the case that I’ve seen so far,” she added. “Everyone’s been open armed.”

The FIFE for LIFE program, which Stewart said is the first of its kind in Canada, is for anyone in need of food and it’s done completely anonymously.

“This program is non-judgemental, there’s no policing, there’s no registration, it’s open to anybody,” Stewart explained. “So this could be [for] students that go to school hungry. There’s a lot of students whose parents can’t afford to send them to school with a lunch. This is for the elderly, the pensioners, the people that are hardly making enough money to eat.”

Stewart said a lot of people have lost their jobs or aren’t working right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so this program may also help everyday people who are just trying to make ends meet.

Locally, many struggle with food insecurity and generally food banks can only be utilized by individuals once or twice a week, according to Stewart.

She said sometimes people need more food to get them through the week or they don’t have all of the ingredients at home to make certain meals.

“This gives them a break and it also gives them hope that the community is behind them,” Stewart remarked. “These people seem to be very appreciative of the fact that they can actually go in and get something made for them, because the homeless don’t have kitchens.”

Restaurants who are participating in the FIFE 4 LIFE program have a decal displayed on their door and a FIFE 4 LIFE poster board that’s visible from outside of the restaurant, allowing individuals who may want to use the program to do so inconspicuously.

“The people who use the program, they don’t want to feel like they’re sticking out, they want to blend in, so it’s easy for them to see from outside the restaurant, the [FIFE 4 LIFE] decal,” Stewart noted. “From that they know it’s a participating restaurant, then they can look in and right within that door they can see if there’s receipts on the poster board.

“It’s a matter of them going in, selecting what they need off of the board and discreetly handing it to a restaurant person, getting their food, and taking it home.”

So far in New Tecumseth, 21 restaurants have joined FIFE 4 LIFE in Alliston, seven in Tottenham and two in Beeton.

In the surrounding area, there are seven more restaurants participating in Angus and two in Stayner.

Stewart said independently owned chains in the community such as Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s, Coffee Culture, and Dominos, have been receptive to the program, while McDonalds, Time Hortons, and Wendy’s still need approvals from head office.

If the program is approved by larger chains head offices, Stewart said she hopes it could be implemented at their other locations as well, quickly spreading it across Canada.

“What I need to work on is getting this from coast to coast,” she enthused. “This program is simple enough that it could go global in a matter of days.”

Going forward, Stewart said she plans to get eateries in Orangeville, Collingwood, and Bradford on board.

In the meantime, she said she encourages everyone in the community to stop by a participating restaurant and make a donation, big or small.

“It just makes you feel good to help give a warm meal into someone who really needs it,” she said.

Anyone who would like to get involved in promoting the program and spreading it to restaurants beyond New Tecumseth is encouraged to contact Stewart at fuelfife4life@gmail.com and express their interest.



         


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