Starbucks FoodShare: Delivering Grace in Halton

Starbucks FoodShare diverts excess food to fill the hearts of those in need.

Every month, Supervisor Kim Allen turns $2,200 into meals, toiletries, and other essentials for the ten residents of Grace House in Halton, Ontario. During her 21 years of working at the residence for adults experiencing complex mental health and addiction issues, she’s learned how to make each dollar count. And she knows how important something as simple as a shared meal can be.

Grace House is a place of transition. It’s a stepping-stone for people who have lived with homelessness, often chronically, where they can find the support, they need to build a new life. Much of the work of Kim and her colleagues is focused on developing “ADL’s” or the “Activities of Daily Living.” These range from cooking to budgeting — whatever will set them up for success once they have a place of their own.

Food has always been at the heart of life at the house. Residents would come together every evening for a formal dinner, often cooked by one of their own. “It was where everybody could just sit down and talk about some of the highs and the lows of the day.” Kim explains. “Really an opportunity for people to make those kind of family connections at the dinner table that are so important.” While COVID-19 has meant that these shared meals have been scaled back to once a week, good food remains a vital source of relief for residents in difficult times. These days, some of that food comes courtesy of Starbucks Partners like Stephanie Spears, a Store Manager in Oakville.

Since July 2020, Stephanie and her team have donated over 2,000 pounds of food,providing more than 370 meals to organizations including Grace House.

“The FoodShare program really allows us to live our mission and values. We’re nurturing the human spirit; we’re nurturing our community. At the same time, FoodShare prevents a ton of waste that would otherwise be in the garbage system, so it’s really a win-win in every area.”

– Stephanie Spears, Starbucks Store Manager

After learning FoodShare was launched in Canada was available to her store, Stephanie was eager to introduce it to her own neighbourhood. Her team embraced the idea. “It’s inspiring for our partners to see that these little changes can have such a huge impact, especially with a big company like Starbucks. Someone comes and picks it up like it’s no sweat off our back. And it has this amazing positive effect. The team thinks ‘What else can we do? Like, how can we do more?’ It’s just a ripple effect of positivity.”

Kim sees that ripple effect first-hand. A treat like a cake-pop makes a solitary lunch just a little bit special for residents, while breakfast items become full dinners in her busy kitchen. But to her, the greatest benefit is the reliability. “I can’t explain how appreciated it is that there’s one meal I don’t have to worry about. I know Fridays I’m going to get Egg Bites from Starbucks and all I have to do is maybe add bacon and sausages, and these guys have dinner.” As the challenges of COVID-19 introduce new expenses and precautions, stable, consistent donations can have a massive impact on the comfort and stress of both residents and staff at homes like Grace House.

Being able to plan her tight budget around the deliveries means that there’s money left over to celebrate important events. “We like to acknowledge those special moments in people’s lives, so it means that we can purchase a birthday cake, we have special dinner that night, whatever it is that they want.”

But the relationship between Stephanie’s store and Grace House doesn’t end with food, as Kim is quick to point out. Beyond the donations, she feels that simple hospitality has made a difference to her residents. “One of the challenges in supporting individuals with mental health and addictions is that sometimes they look different, I suppose, to outsiders,” she explains. “But we’ve never felt that Starbucks has treated the people that I support differently. In fact, they’ve always been welcoming.”

It’s part of what Stephanie and her partners have fostered for years. “We’re trying to be this positive presence in the community. And I always think of my store as this beautiful little safe space for us all to come together and just have fun and interact with our customers and just like literally uplift each other every day. Like, it’s so cheesy, but I hope that that environment can spread outwards.”

Today food insecurity affects more Canadians than ever, and homes like Grace House are especially vulnerable. Already stretched thin, they rely on their communities to continue their vital work.

 You can support Kim, her colleagues, and the residents of Grace House at supporthouse.ca

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