Food & Recipes

‘Feeding the Hungry Feeds My Soul’: Meet the Chef Helping Needy Families Get Healthy, Home-Cooked Meals

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Jagger Gordon shook his head sadly as the rain poured down just outside his catering tent. “All this food…just wasted,” the Toronto-based chef thought, gazing out at the trays of uneaten fare he’d been hired to prepare for the outdoor event. “I can’t bear to see it thrown away.”

During his career as a chef, Jagger had always been bothered by the amount of food that goes to waste. But that day, as he stared at hundreds of pounds of food bound for the garbage, the image of his daughter’s best friend flashed in his mind. Jagger often cooked for the girls when she’d come over to visit, but one afternoon when he dropped her off at home, he realized her family barely had anything to eat, and that the food that he’d cooked for her might be her only meal that day. “I wish I could get this leftover food to families like hers,” he considered. Suddenly, he felt his heart leap — and an idea began to bloom.

Filling Bellies, Feeding Hearts

A couple of days later, Chef Jagger and his team made their way to Trinity Bellwoods Park with the trays of leftover food they’d frozen after the event. Within hours, the group had set up a pop-up kitchen and fed 300 people who’d passed through the park, many of whom were homeless. As Jagger left the site for the day, his heart swelled at the memory of their smiling faces. I want to feed more families and people in need, he resolved, filled with purpose.

Installing a commercial freezer at a local church, Jagger got to work on his first initiative, Feed Families, in 2014. Each day, the chef and a group of volunteers would stock it full of meals made from leftover food donated from events, stores or restaurants, allowing eight needy families from the church to take them home. 

Chef Jagger Feed it Forward Food Waste

Even though Feed Families rotated its recipients monthly, as word of the program spread, the number of participants grew, so Jagger began to think bigger.

“We’re starting a new service called ‘Feed It Forward,’” he said to his team in 2015. “We’ll give out hot, nutritious meals every Monday night to anyone who needs one…and we’re going to do it all with donated and surplus food.” 

After months of doing just that, on Christmas day, Jagger and his team served over 1,200 people Christmas dinner at the local community center. “This is the best Christmas ever!” a little girl cried out to him as she made her way to her family’s table. And as Jagger gazed out at the joy and laughter, he realized he didn’t want to stop there. 

Giving Joy Through Delicious Food

In 2017, Chef Jagger opened The Soup Bar, the first ever pay-what-you-can restaurant in Toronto open to anyone hungry or in need. With an ever-growing family of restaurateurs donating leftover food, The Soup Bar offers more than 150 daily meals of soup, sandwiches and salads to people around the city.

This year, Chef Jagger also opened a pay-what-you-can, waste-free grocery store, where visitors can choose fresh produce, baked goods, and pre-made meals donated by allies such as Whole Foods and local restaurants, all costing only what buyers can spare.

Dalia, a patron of the Feed It Forward grocery store, says, “All the food in the store is so good and fresh, better than any food bank around. It’s truly a wonderful place.” But for Jagger, giving back is the true gift. “Getting food into the hands of those who truly need it is the greatest feeling in the world,” he says. “Seeing the smile on a child’s face when he or she has a full belly is a total blessing. It fills me up every single day.” 

To find out more about Jagger’s inspiring program, visit the Feed It Forward website

How You Can Help Now: Food Waste Weekend

From September 21 to 23, join Ample Harvest in spreading the word about how to use surplus food to feed your community. That weekend, clergy of all faiths will be delivering messages about combating local hunger, saving money on food, and how you can offer a helping hand to a neighbor in need. Learn more at AmpleHarvest.org

What’s more, all year, you can make regular food donations to your local pantry which will not only help feed a hungry neighbor but also do your part in reducing food waste and helping the environment. To find a location to donate the fresh food you grow or any surplus food you’ve bought, visit AmpleHarvest.org.

This article was originally written by Alexandra Pollock and appeared in our print magazine.

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