Call For Middlesex London Food Policy Council Members Extended

Are you interested in being a part of food system change in Middlesex London? Then the Middlesex London Food Policy Council needs you.

The Middlesex London Food Policy Council was established in November 2017.

We are a group of dedicated volunteers working towards a local, sustainable and accessible food system in London and Middlesex County.

We are now seeking applications for the January 2021 – December 2023 term.

The role description and application form can be downloaded here. Please direct any queries to info@mlfpc.ca

Please share this post with your networks or individuals who you think might be interested.

Applications are due by November 30, 2020

Benjamin Hill, Chair 

Middlesex London Food Policy Council

https://mlfpc.ca/ 

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Food for Thought: COVID-19 Reflections

Of the many ways Covid has made our relationship with the world more complicated, none is more constant than the way we think about our food.  We want to eat, in a way that brings sustenance and pleasure with minimal risk and the spectrum of normal food habits, in our pre-Covid lives was very broad. Now that we have had time to consider our feelings about UberEats vs baking bread, it may be prudent to implement a regime to optimize our health potential and try to support one another.

An overview of some recent changes, to our personal food gathering, will hopefully offer a positive direction, to lead future decisions. Food habits, in the pre-Covid times, may have been shaped by convenience and indulgence. Many of our ‘old ways’ were not healthy as evidenced by our lifestyle diseases, such as metabolic syndrome and the obesity epidemic, contributing to chronic health issues like Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer. Not to mention the enormous amount of single use plastic waste we generate from convenience foods and the food service industry. These may be two good reasons to reassess, was normal really optimal?

Shopping for food at grocery stores has changed.  From lineups to enter the store, a multitude of signage, directional arrows and the plexiglass all remind us that shopping requires awareness, should be done alone and if possible, at non peak times.  Some stores were offering seniors hours as an added amenity.  Grocery delivery and curbside pickup required a level of technical savvy that was a challenge to some and an asset to many. Apart from produce and perishables, which people like to pick out on their own, these services can be very helpful.  A throwback to 40 years ago, when green grocers and butchers had an urban market share for weekly shopping and the dry goods were purchased in bulk, less frequently.  May be a consideration as the horizon stretches out.  

As Phase 1 of the Provincial opening, farmers markets were allowed to open, which was excellent but the plight of the migrant workers that farmers depend on, was  a source of numerous issues from Covid safety to workers’ rights, those issues will need to be dealt with, since these skilled workers are essential to the ability to produce and harvest food locally.

The early part of lockdown saw an increase in the consumption of overly processed food and comfort eating by some, leading to the Covid 8.6 kg weight gain.  Cooking at home was somewhere between a novelty and a necessity.  The abundance of time, for some,  gave way to the baking phenomena resulting in shortages of flour, yeast, and eggs.  People were seeing food as finite and meal planning at home emerged, based on what was available and what needed to be used up.  Home meal preparation does not need to be complicated. Simple, unprocessed items identified in Canada’s Food Guide as vegetable and fruit, whole grains and proteins should be the staples, prepared in ways that are manageable.  

Covid has forced our relationship with retail food services from an, anywhere, anytime, to a homebody economy and retailers who can rebound, reboot, and reinvent according to Nielsen, may be better suited to hold a bigger segment of the market share. So, what do customers value? People want to make purchases that will boost their local economy. Local brands were identified as an accelerator for decision making, as was food that had a healthy, potentially protective, or immune enhancing property.  The Food Retail Environment Study for Health and Economic Resiliency (FRESHER), at UWO “is a pilot study of the effects of COVID-19 on restaurants, fast food outlets, grocery stores, cafes, bars, pubs, and alcohol retail stores in Ontario, across all types of communities”. Using interviews and surveys they will be able to influence policies going forward.  

So where do we go from here?  Shop wisely, using all the public health guidelines related to reducing droplet transmission.  Respect and embrace the simple domestic art of home meal preparation, using locally sourced ingredients, where possible and meal plan to avoid waste.  Consider how you can help support a local business, while minimizing extra plastic waste.  Where restaurants have had some benefit with outdoor patios, this will not be the case in the coming months and it will be difficult to serve on site, possibly making takeout more favorable.  Above all, we must continue to be vigilant and stay well, self-care through excellent nutrition is a good place to start.  Winter is coming and once again, the times are changing.

 

About the author: Susan Smith is a volunteer at the MLFPC with long-standing expertise in nutrition. She graduated from UWO, Brescia University College in 1995 and has been a clinical dietitian at the London Health Science Center for almost 25 years! Susan has a keen interest in sustainable food systems that create a harmonious urban-rural relationship with a focus on community health and a minimal carbon footprint. 

London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund: Pillar Nonprofit Partner Spotlight

The London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund has been created in partnership with Club House for Chefs and McCormick Canada, the Middlesex London Food Policy Council, Pillar Nonprofit Network, rTraction, Tourism London and the Western Fair District. The fund awards eligible, independent restaurant operators with grants of $1,000 to support their businesses to open or remain open through the difficult times caused by COVID-19. 

A champion of cross-sectoral collaboration, it’s no surprise to find Pillar Nonprofit Network among the partners of the London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund. When McCormick Canada was seeking a way to grant money to area restaurants, the idea landed in the inbox of Paul Seale, Pillar’s Membership Engagement Manager and a former restaurateur himself. “It was a definite yes,” he says, “and I began reaching out to other network members that I can count on to say, yes, too.” And that’s how the Middlesex London Food Policy Council, rTraction, and Western Fair District came on board to make the project work.

Pillar Nonprofit Network is an umbrella organization for nonprofit and social purpose organizations in London, strengthening individuals and organizations who seek to make positive community change. One of Pillar’s core activities is to bring nonprofits, businesses, and governments together to solve community problems. During the pandemic, for example, Pillar facilitated a collaboration between RBC and the London Food Bank to supply meals to vulnerable Londoners during COVID-19 and arranged for a team of volunteers to deliver the meals by bike. They’ve also worked with Libro and Tech Alliance to run two design challenges to award innovative businesses the money to scale up their business solutions for pandemic problems. Pillar even operates a large co-working space, Innovation Works, to facilitate collaboration and innovation.

Speaking from experience, Paul says, “this is an industry where there are big and small expenses every day. There are no restaurants that wouldn’t benefit from $1000 at this time whether it be for PPE, plexiglass separations, directional arrows, or food to stock the pantry.” He also knows how valuable restaurants are to the community. Taken together, he says, restaurants are big employers and an important part of our local economy, but also, “independent restaurants are a huge part of our community’s experience of culture. And, because this is directed at independently-owned restaurants, these are family-run businesses, often with important community roles.” 

Paul believes restaurants are also “an important part of how we give ourselves a sense of occasion,” and he’s looking forward to being able to celebrate — at a restaurant — getting through this together. 

The London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund has already awarded $1000 grants to thirty-five area restaurants and is seeking local enterprises to contribute to the fund so that more restaurants can benefit. To apply make a contribution, please visit lmrsf.ca.

 

London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund: Libro Credit Union Contributor Spotlight

The London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund has been created in partnership with Club House for Chefs and McCormick Canada, the Middlesex London Food Policy Council, Pillar Nonprofit Network, rTraction, Tourism London and the Western Fair District. The fund awards eligible, independent restaurant operators with grants of $1,000 to support their businesses to open or remain open through the difficult times caused by COVID-19. 

Libro Credit Union was the first local business to contribute to the London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund, pledging $2000 before the fund was even announced. Thomas Sumpter, a Commercial and Agricultural Account Manager with Libro learned of the initiative by way of his volunteer work with the Middlesex London Food Policy Council and championed it with his organization. “Being a donor for this project is a perfect fit for Libro,” Sumpter says, “as it parallels our pillars and values as a cooperative.” 

Libro focuses on growing prosperity in Southwestern Ontario by contributing to causes that support four important pillars: employment, financial resilience, local food accessibility and housing. In June, Libro launched an initiative called the #Loyal2LocalChallenge. For this challenge, staff members were given twenty-five dollars to purchase something from a local business and post about it on social media using the provided hashtag. Many individuals used their allowance to purchase food from a local restaurant.

Being a donor to the London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund aligns with Libro’s vision of supporting causes related to employment, financial resilience and local food accessibility. Sumpter believes that restaurants have always been a staple in London and Middlesex communities and that these businesses help to provide a vibrant local culture to our area. “Every community within Middlesex-London has restaurants that people can associate themselves with,” adds Sumpter.

 Libro and Sumpter anticipate that the London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund will help local restaurants with unexpected operating costs that have been inflicted due to COVID-19. These costs include purchasing personal protective equipment and other materials that will help to ensure social distancing occurs in restaurants. “Ultimately, we hope that restaurants are able to use this fund to make their customers feel safe and ensure that they continue to return,” says Sumpter.

When asked if he had any suggestions or words of encouragement for restaurants to get through this pandemic, Sumpter stated “Clearly we are living in a different world. I encourage restaurants to focus on looking at different revenue streams and how they can adapt to the changing times.” 

Sumpter himself is a fan of many local restaurants, he adds, “All restaurants add value to their community, I hope that this grant will help these businesses to have the confidence to keep pushing through these difficult times” The London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund has already awarded grants to thirty-three restaurants and is continuing to look for local enterprises to step up and support the fund. To apply to this fund or to make a contribution, please visit lmrsf.ca.

Middlesex-London Restaurant Support Fund Recipient Reach

The London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund has been created in partnership with Club House for Chefs and McCormick Canada, the Middlesex London Food Policy Council, Pillar Nonprofit Network, rTraction, Tourism London and the Western Fair District. The fund awards eligible, independent restaurant operators with grants of $1,000 to support their businesses to open or remain open through the difficult times caused by COVID-19. 

Since it’s initiation, the London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund has granted 33 restaurants monetary funds to help these businesses with costs inflicted from the pandemic. Above is a snapshot of the reach and impact of the fund within our community. You can keep up to date with restaurant recipients through our live map here. At this time we’re continuing to look for local enterprises to step up and support the fund. To apply to this fund or to make a contribution, please visit lmrsf.ca.

The restaurants that have been supported at this time include:

The Morrissey House, The Green Window, Locomotive Espresso, James’ Place Restaurant, The Tea Lounge, Mjs Roadhouse, Curley Brewing Company, Palasad Billiards Limited, Rusty Wrench Brewing Co, Grace Restaurant, Milos Craft Beer Emporium, Eat.OA!, Willie’s Cafe, Momo’s at the Market, Blackfriars Bistro, The Village Teapot, The Gourmet Deli, Cafe Artiste, Village Pantry Restaurant, Sidetrack: A Wortley Café, Grad Club, The Mill Pond Tap and Grill, Zen’za Pizzeria, Globally Local, Thorndale Family Restaurant, Malibu Restaurant, Joe Kool’s Restaurants Limited, Toboggan Brewing Company Limited, Fellini Koolini’s/Runt Club, Chickpz, VAS Cuisine, and Artisian Bakery

London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund: The Western Fair Association Partner Spotlight

  The London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund has been created in partnership with Club House for Chefs and McCormick Canada, the Middlesex London Food Policy Council, Pillar Nonprofit Network, rTraction, Tourism London and the Western Fair District. The fund awards eligible, independent restaurant operators with grants of $1,000 to support their businesses to open or remain open through the difficult times caused by COVID-19. 

For this interview, we were lucky to speak with Mike Fish who is the food and beverage general manager at the Western Fair Association. The Western Fair Association is, first and foremost, an Agricultural Society. It’s a not-for-profit business whose membership is made up of community partners and industry leaders. Their mandate is to push the best interest of the agriculture sector. Their mission is all about creating experiences centred around agriculture with a focus on education and empowerment. The Western Fair Association has been up and running since confederation and has seen many changes. However, what has remained at the heart of the organization is their urge to support the agricultural industry and the community with events and education. It’s been a long-standing staple within the city and county for several years.

The Western Fair Association is commonly known for its fair. Their fair happens every year, and it’s a significant showcasing of agriculture and commodities while giving the community a country harvest fair feel within the middle of the city. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg for this organization! They’re also known for their owned and operated shows. They have one of Ontario’s largest indoor farm shows that happen in March. This event showcases seminars and activities for farmers, suppliers and other agricultural partners. In addition, they run a large scale food service where they provide catering. They also have a top of the fair restaurant that overlooks their racing track and several other food and beverage outlets. They support agriculture through food and beverage. The newest intuitive that the Western Fair’s pursuing is The Grove. The Grove is an agri-food, agri-tech incubator that intends to help smaller businesses launch themself into that agricultural arena. Overall The Grove aims to aid the next generation of agricultural entrepreneurs, educators and leaders. 

When asked why the Western Fair Association wanted to contribute to this fund, Mike explained that this was an easy decision. Mike comes from a long history of working in restaurants and has previously owned and operated his own. Through these experiences, he understands the struggle many restauranteurs and entrepreneurs face right now and how every dime and minute counts. At this moment especially, restaurants can benefit from any monetary support they can receive going though COVID-19, whether it be for keeping staff employed, infrastructure upgrades or personal protection equipment. Many restaurants are well known for supporting the community in immense ways, whether it be giving out gift certificates for events or free meals and just taking care of the community. The Western Fair Association simply knew the importance of aiding these entrepreneurs, which urged them to participate in this fund. 

Within the interview, Mike then explains that the supply chain may not be as strong as we hoped within local procurement all over Canada. To make a more resilient food system, his most significant suggestion is to support local agriculture and movement. For example, instead of purchasing onions that have been shipped across the globe, buy onions grown withing SouthWestern Ontario. The resiliency will come from having this experience and getting through COVID-19 together. It’ll show many entrepreneurs how to survive and teach them lessons within financial responsibility. With that being said, we need to shift the focus to local food security like neighbourhood gardens and teaching people how to grow food and eat clean.

In addition to this restaurant fund, the Western Fair Association is aiding the community in getting through this pandemic with various other areas. The Western Fair Association is always open to having conversations surrounding the food system with national industry leaders to support the Middlesex-London community further. They’re trying to keep engaged with their partners. When the pandemic first hit, they donated food to many food banks and organizations they partner with.

On an individual level, to support our local restaurants, Mike says the best way is to order takeout!  When ordering from these restaurants, try to order directly rather than using third-party distributors. At the very least, you can support local restaurants by calling them and letting them know you’re thinking about them at this time. It’s time for the community to come together. People go to restaurants for special moments and a change from the daily grind of their line. We need to remember the value of restaurants while knowing there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. As a community, we’ll get through this!

The London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund has already awarded grants to thirty-three restaurants and is continuing to look for local enterprises to step up and support the fund. To apply to this fund or to make a contribution, please visit lmrsf.ca.

London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund: Middlesex-London Food Policy Council Partner Spotlight

The London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund has been created in partnership with Club House for Chefs and McCormick Canada, the Middlesex London Food Policy Council, Pillar Nonprofit Network, rTraction, Tourism London and the Western Fair District. The fund awards eligible, independent restaurant operators with grants of $1,000 to support their businesses to open or remain open through the difficult times caused by COVID-19. 

For this interview, we were able to speak with Benjamin Hill, the chair of the Middlesex-London Food Policy Council. The Middlesex-London Food Policy Council is a group of volunteers who work for an equitable, robust and sustainable food system. They’re interested in developing the local food system in ways that support the whole community. They hope to work together and bring together various stakeholders in the agri-food sector to improve their local food system in the Middlesex-London community. MLFPC is a relatively new organization that came out of a food assessment in 2015 and officially formed in 2017. During these early stages of existence, they’ve been trying to find which areas the council fits best in the community. They intend not just to connect businesses and individuals but also to the City of London and Middlesex County. They are a repository of knowledge and expertise while connecting people to magnify their actions. It was a relatively easy decision for MLFPC to decide to participate in the creation of this fund. Even though the organization is not donating monetary funds, they’re giving their expertise and connections with the community to bring stakeholders together and facilitate the process.

MLFPC believes that the restaurant industry is a critical factor in the local food system. Throughout the interview, Benjamin acknowledges the interconnection between restaurants and other players in the local food system. Benjamin notes that restaurants are significant drivers of the community’s food consumption, are a source of jobs. Still, most importantly, they are a crucial node in the community that connects consumers and farmers. For MLFPC, we must have a robust independent food scene not just for consumers or the economy but also for the totality of the farm system. The overall food system in the Middlesex-London community would not be able to operate without each player in the system, including restaurants. 

Benjamin acknowledges that these restaurants right now are under pressure and especially suffered during shut down. They’re one of the industries where you cannot work at home if you’re working at a restaurant. There’s a lot of direct but also indirect impact. As they open, they have to now spend money on safety equipment such as plexiglass and personal protection gear. These challenges are something restaurants aren’t just facing right now but also moving forward.  

At this time, many of us in the Middlesex-London community want to help support our favourite restaurateurs. Benjamin recommends that an excellent way to be supportive of these restaurants is by purchasing food from them. Lots of restaurants are doing more carry out meals. His family gets carryout from local restaurants; they sit outside and have a little feast in their backyard. 

The interview ends with some words of encouragement from Benjamin. “We’re still in the midst of things changing because of COVID-19. When we go out to the farmer’s markets, restaurants or even grocery stores, we should be wary of the guidelines, and when you get the chance, treat yourself to some good local food!”

The London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund has has already awarded grants to twenty-seven restaurants and is continuing to look for local enterprises to step up and support the fund. To apply to this fund or to make a contribution, please visit lmrsf.ca.

London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund: rTraction Partner Spotlight

The London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund has been created in partnership with Club House for Chefs and McCormick Canada, the Middlesex London Food Policy Council, Pillar Nonprofit Network, rTraction, Tourism London and the Western Fair District. The fund awards eligible, independent restaurant operators with grants of $1,000 to support their businesses to open or remain open through the difficult times caused by COVID-19. 

 rTraction generously agreed to contribute to the London Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund. David Billson, CEO, and Co-founder of rTraction says that “Being able to bring our skillset about marketing and tech support to step up and help our local community, is very much in alignment with our goals and value.” rTraction Canada, Inc. is a certified B Corporation and award-winning digital services agency located in the London Roundhouse. rTraction focuses on improving community outcomes more than profit.

 David believes that restaurants represent an influential image of the Middlesex London community as well as an important part of the local economy and job creation. When asked about the importance of supporting local restaurants, David thinks it is extremely important to support local restaurants during this unprecedented time since the restaurant industry is struggling with its capacity and restrictions on re-opening.

rTraction and David forecast that the London Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund will help local restaurants with an unforeseen increase in operating costs due to COVID-19. These costs may include purchasing Personal Protective Equipment(PPE) for employees and customers, enhanced disinfection measures, as well as supplies to ensure social distancing in the restaurant. 

When asked about how rTraction thinks this fund would support local restaurants, David said “ We hope this fund can help small restaurants to allocate to their best use. Some might use this fund to purchase PPE, or to help bring their customers back, While others might use this fund to help with loans or even fund a way to make capital.”

With regards to suggestions that David thinks could help restaurants better recover, David adds “I think for small restaurants to have some sort of online presence is very important these days. Ensure that you are discoverable online, building out a small simple website, reviews, or even just have an address confirmed by google. Just making sure you have some sort of online presence is very important nowadays for local businesses.”

In terms of any suggestions or words of encouragement to get through this pandemic, David stated “ It’s quite an opportunity for us to be able to participate in this program and step up for our community. It’s nice to see that it is set up and I hope the best for this fund.”

The London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund has already awarded grants to thirty-four restaurants and is continuing to look for local enterprises to step up and support the fund. To apply to this fund or to make a contribution, please visit lmrsf.ca.

London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund: Middlesex County Contributor Spotlight

The London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund has been created in partnership with Club House for Chefs and McCormick Canada, the Middlesex London Food Policy Council, Pillar Nonprofit Network,rTraction, Tourism London and the Western Fair District. The fund awards eligible, independent restaurant operators with grants of $1,000 to support their businesses to open or remain open through the difficult times caused by COVID-19. 

For this interview, we had the pleasure of speaking with Cara Finn, Director of Economic Development for Middlesex County. Middlesex County is one of the generous contributors to the London Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund. Middlesex County received a grant from the Federal Government with the sole purpose of providing relief and recovery for tourism operators in Middlesex County, and so they were excited to use this to partner in this project.

 When asked why she thought it was important to support local restaurants during this time, Cara responded,  “These people work so hard, and I can tell you within the first couple of days of COVID-19, many of the questions I had from restaurant operators in the county and in London was not, ‘what are we going to do’ or you know, ‘my business is going to fail’, it was ‘how can we help?’, ‘how can we help our staff that we may have to do temporary layoffs for?’, ‘how can we connect with other employers in the region such as those in agriculture that are maybe ramping up their season while we have to go into this period of flux and pivoting?’ It was incredible.”  “They are so deserving of our support.” It’s great to hear of the sense of community that occurs in this industry.

Cara also mentioned that the fund helps our local restaurants by validating the hard work that is happening. “It validates the effort that they’ve placed into making sure that we’re taken care of, making sure that we are healthy and safe, and allows them just a small smidgen of financial backing to be able to do what they’re already doing, which is go one step beyond.”

Creative solutions are continuing to emerge, such as the four additional pop-up patios in the Strathroy downtown core that allow for more dining space, and the extension of market seasons such as with the Komoka Market, which will now be able to extend its season until Thanksgiving.

Middlesex County, together with the Middlesex London Health Unit, Middlesex London Food Policy Council, Middlesex Federation of Agriculture, Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, and with help from the Federal Economic Development Association of Southern Ontario, recently launched the Middlesex County Culinary Guide, which is available online at https://www.visitmiddlesex.ca/plan/maps-guides/middlesex-county-culinary-guide, as well as in print this week. The Middlesex County Culinary Guide showcases restaurants in the Middlesex community, along with markets, and food producers, that all work together to make things happen for our community. 

With one last message for our local restaurants, Cara emphasizes the appreciation that is held for our hard-working restaurant community. “At Middlesex County our whole message for economic development is really one of appreciating the businesses that invest in our community. That’s the message I want to give people. It doesn’t go unnoticed. We know how hard people are working. We know the stresses, both financial and emotional that are happening for each of us as individuals, but then add that tenfold if you are trying to operate a business in this climate. The main message is that we see them, we know how much work they have put into it, and we’re here to support them.”

The London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund has has already awarded grants to twenty-seven restaurants and is continuing to look for local enterprises to step up and support the fund. To apply to this fund or to make a contribution, please visit lmrsf.ca.

London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund: McCormick Canada Partner Spotlight

The London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund has been created in partnership with Club House for Chefs and McCormick Canada, the Middlesex London Food Policy Council, Pillar Nonprofit Network, rTraction, Tourism London and the Western Fair District. The fund awards eligible, independent restaurant operators with grants of $1,000 to support their businesses to open or remain open through the difficult times caused by COVID-19. 

The London-Middlesex Restaurant Support fund all began with a brilliant idea from Anna Stolee, Senior Director of Sales and Marketing for the Food Service Division of McCormick Canada. “Our company has been in London for 137 years and we wanted to provide restaurants in our community with financial assistance to help them cover costs inflicted by the pandemic,” says Stolee. Her idea led to McCormick Canada seeding the London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund with a $30,000 contribution.

McCormick Canada is the Canadian division of the global spice and seasoning company, the largest of its kind in the world. Anna Stolee describes McCormick as one of London’s “best kept secrets.” The company has three facilities in London, providing 650 jobs in our community. McCormick owns a multitude of brands including Club House, McCormick Gourmet, Billy Bee Honey, French’s, Frank’s Red Hot, Cattleman’s, Thai Kitchen, and many others. All of these products are being made right here in London, Ontario.

Stolee has experienced the burdens of COVID-19 firsthand and states, “The food service industry has been devastated by COVID-19 — this includes restaurants, hospitality, stadiums, conferences, and anywhere that people would eat food away from home.” In fact, a July survey by Restaurants Canada found that more than half of the restaurants in Canada are continually operating at a loss since the beginning of the pandemic (Restaurants Canada, 2020).

With the implications of the pandemic, restaurants have had to make some changes to their preconceived ‘normal.’ “We have seen restaurants adapt their business models to do a lot more take out. Restaurants are making pre-made meals for consumers to make at home, they are selling alcohol, or selling groceries,” says Stolee. Yet, despite this abundance of innovation in the restaurant industry, very thin margins have resulted in these new ideas not being enough. Stolee adds, “There has been a fair amount of government support in terms of wage subsidy and rent protection, but these are going to end.”

Stolee believes that the most important concern of employees and patrons returning to restaurants is safety. “Restaurants have to ramp up their sanitization policies, provide masks and safety gear to staff and have limited capacities in their space,” she says. However, she also realizes that these costs can be burdensome to restaurants and add another difficult layer to the obstacles restaurants are struggling with right now.

Stolee, like many, enjoys the vast array of restaurants in the London-Middlesex area. “Everybody loves to go out to a restaurant. Everybody would feel the pain if we didn’t have our restaurants as a part of our community. They are such a large part of our social and community network,” says Stolee. She has been enjoying ordering takeout with her family and encourages restaurants to give consumers a reason to continue buying food from their establishments. “It is critical to give the best experience to your customers, as takeout is here to stay,” she adds.

“People become restaurant owners because they are passionate about what they are doing. They do not need the extra grief and concerns that COVID-19 has brought upon them,” says Stolee. “We at McCormick wanted to do what we could to help ease the burden restaurants are experiencing at this time. We know this fund will not solve all problems, but it is our way of showing that we hear you, we get what you are going through, and we hope this is something that will help you out.”

The London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund has has already awarded grants to twenty-seven restaurants and is continuing to look for local enterprises to step up and support the fund. To apply to this fund or to make a contribution, please visit lmrsf.ca.

 

 Written by: Colleen Crunican