“If I looked back at the end of a career in accounting, I’m not sure if I’d be really satisfied. So I wanted to make sure that whatever I did with my life that I’d be really proud of it.” says Jeremy Bryant, of Mealshare.
Growing up in Calgary, and studying business, Bryant never identified with the work. “I didn’t really enjoy it,” he says, “I didn’t feel like I was really helping anybody.” His parents were actively involved with charities, and helped the young Bryants understand from an early age that Calgary is a city where everybody looks out for each other. So when cousin Andrew Hall was feeling the same about consulting, the pair set out to create something together while giving back to the community.
They settled on food as it brings people together, but is crippling if you don’t have access to it. “We combined that with the business side of things instead of just starting a charity that could help people get food, we saw that there were already a ton of great charities doing that work, so we wanted to find a way to use food to help existing charities and the work that they do,” Bryant says.
They started Mealshare, mid 2013. It was tough going at first, but once ‘founding partners’, Blue Star Diner and Dairy Lane Café signed on, other restaurants realised the sense of ‘one meal purchased, one meal shared’. Now there’s close to 30 partner restaurants in Calgary, and 150 across the country. “And we get to choose the restaurants we work with, which is awesome,” says Bryant. “We look for restaurants that are already involved in the community; they give back, they give their customers a cool experience and their staff love to work for them – they’re the partners we like to work with.”
So what bottle does Bryant have stashed away?
A few years ago, when he was in his third year at university, he was given the option to go and get a job or to renovate a house. “So I definitely chose renovating the house,” he laughs, “as you can imagine, an internship in accounting probably wouldn’t be that exciting.”
They bought an old, dusty 1950s house, and started tearing down walls. Having taken out everything in the basement, they started on a wall upstairs. “We were tearing it down and then at the very bottom of it, this bottle, along with a pack of 20 rifle bullets, just popped out at the bottom,” he explains, “So we dusted it off and it’s a bottle of whiskey! It was a little disconcerting as to why the previous owner hid a bottle of whiskey and bullets – were they getting ready for the apocalypse?”
The bottle was 1971 Gold Nugget, from Meagher’s Distillery in Montreal. Little is known about the rye whiskey, as Meaghers was sold to Corby’s in 1978.
And when might Bryant open the bottle?
“We were thinking that next year, we expect to close in on the one-million shared meals mark,” he says. “We’re at about 150,000 right now, but we’re hoping in the next year or so we should be at a million and we’re thinking it might be a good time to crack open the bottle and share it with the Mealshare team – and celebrate becoming ‘meal-ionaires!’
Photography by Ingrid Kuenzel