Good Food For Good

I am thrilled to introduce a social enterprise whose approach to nutrition and sharing totally needs a space here.

The origins of a social entreprise

Having worked for the conventional food industry for many years, Richa Gupta started to feel increasingly frustrated by the poor quality of food sold in the market. Food that is very high in calories and poor in nutrients. Food that is “made of ingredients” instead of being the ingredient. In fact, westerners have never had so much food in terms of calories intake and paradoxically, so less nutrients.

Richa questioned the status quo, only to find out that selling better, qualitative food wasn’t at all a priority for decision-makers in the food industry. Tired of working for products she didn’t believe in, she left and created her own company, GOOD FOOD FOR GOOD in 2013.

A reminder of what food is

She lived through again as she started making fresh, locally-sourced, organic, vegan, and gluten-free sauces inspired by Indian and Mexican cuisine. These sauces can turn any preparation into a sophisticated and delicious meal. Her “ketchup” sweetened with dates is also an astute alternative to sugar-bombs regular ketchup.

Richa also blends delicious turmeric teas. They nicely provide a daily intake of this highly beneficial root in our diet. Turmeric is a great anti-oxidant, thus helping cancer survivors heal. But, as Richa explained to me, people are also increasingly interested in turmeric as a preventive approach to diseases. For more information on its benefits, you can read this interesting post Turmeric, the golden root.

As her own CEO, she regularly had to make tough decisions that implied choosing between quality or easier profits. She never compromised on the quality of her products, regardless of people’s advice. For instance, she fiercely resisted adding preservatives to her sauces, and tests revealed that they actually didn’t need them.

Good news! We can now buy Richa’s products in many stores in Toronto. You can find the list here . Even my Longos sells her Ketchup.  Good job, the Bro’s.

 

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Richa (2nd from left) and her team at Toronto Vegan Fest (08/13/2016)

Food that fights hunger

Feeding Canadians with real, nutritive food, was not enough for the entrepreneur. Fascinated by the One for One example of TOMS’ shoes, she decided that a percentage of each purchase would be donated to charities in India. This amount offers a meal to a child in need in India. For these kids, the perspective of being fed a meal is an incentive to go to school. And because hunger is not a reality in India only, GOOD FOOD FOR GOOD also partners with Food Banks Canada. I read on their website that a daunting 13% of Canadians live in a state of food insecurity, meaning they have no access to safe and nutritious food in sufficient quantities.

Lastly, if Richa is so inspiring to me, it is because like too many of my friends today, she used to be dissatisfied and unhappy with her job but decided that things could be different. It takes a lot of courage. And, as she humbly recalls, a lot of support too. But where there is passion, there is a way. That’s what she told me over a big batch of turmeric tea one day.

For the love of bulk

Buying in bulk has many advantages, from saving tons of useless plastics to saving money.

I am currently trying to convert to bulk as much as I can. But why and how? Read more about it and please share your tips and comments!

Why to buy in bulk?

Buying in bulk addresses the crucial problem of packaging and our over-consumption of perfectly useless plastics. Going to supermarkets sometimes makes me mad. Why do these innocent spinach leaves, almonds, sushis, croissants have to be put into plastic boxes? This is a pure nonsense. Let alone the sanitary questions of how plastic components interact with our food over time, it is an environmental disaster.

What’s in it for me?

Savings: marketing and packaging costs are reflected on the price of the final product. And at the end, do you want to pay for your rolled oats or for their packaging? (For example, as per April 2016, rolled oats at Noah’s Natural Food bought in bulk cost 3,69/kilo. Organic rolled oats at Longos cost  6,98/kilo).

Another aspect of savings is some stores offer a small discount when you bring your containers, which is fair since you save them the cost of the bag too.

Avoiding to waste food: when buying food in bulk, we can buy the exact quantity we need, period. No need to buy a 500g bag of walnuts if it’s only to make one cake.

Aesthetics: transparent jars where you can see the food directly look really appealing ,,,. Making them more visually accessible is also a good way to diversify the menus of a week. Instead of sticking to rice and pasta, beans, quinoa, brown rice, and lentils will inspire you through the glass.

-Last (but maybe should have been 1st): buying in bulk often means buying raw materials that have not been transformed industrially. Long story short, it is incredibly healthier.

How to buy in bulk?

So, what does it mean to buy in bulk? It means, first of all, to find grocery stores that sell food in bulk. (see a list of options below). It also requires to bring containers to the store, like cotton bags, jars, or plastic tupperware. Some stores accept it and some don’t, for so-called sanitary reasons. It is often worth insisting a bit, and explaining the reasons of not wanting to produce waste when it can be avoided.

If this step seems like a big challenge, you can also, in your usual grocery store, make better choices. Veggies and fruit packaged in plastic boxes often have “nude” alternatives. Go for them.

Tips

My advice to begin would be to start with “easy food” like rice, pasta and lentils. Just start by transferring your existing food to three jars. Continue and explore quinoa, bulgur, beans of all kinds. You can then transition to food that are a little more logistically challenging like teas, spices, chocolate. The most difficult things being probably meat, dairy products and liquids in general. (I’m not there yet!)

Also, start collecting all your glass containers. I bet that once you’ve started, you’ll be running short of them.

Lastly, get inspired by Béa Johnson, a zero waste leader in the US.

Where in TO?

Basically everywhere! But here is my shortlist:

-BulkBarn: so far the most comprehensive bulk store I have found in Toronto. they have everything from pasta to rice, flour, sugar, dried fruit… in pails, tubs or bins. The bags they propose are all made in Canada and 100% recyclable. Right now, customers are not allowed to bring their own containers to refill for safety issues. The reason given is that customers may pour extra amounts back in their containers or directly dip theirs. But they are actively working on an « even-better » solution. (This is a list of stores in Toronto).

[Update from 11/05: BulkBarn is allowing Bring Your Own Containers at Liberty Village!]

-4Life Natural Food in Kensington: actually, there are plenty of organic stores that sell in bulk in Kensington. I just selected this one because it is spacious and well organized. You can find all sorts of rice and grains there. (210 Augusta Avenue).

-Saint Lawrence Market: the lower floor of the market is home to many shops where most sellers sell in bulk their bread, flour, oats, dried fruit etc.-

-Noah’s Natural Foods: they have a selection of products sold in bulk, including rice and rolled oats, and most of them are organic. (Four locations in Toronto).

b.good

Does fast food have to be synonymous with poor-quality raw materials, health issues and high environmental costs?

For best friends Anthony and Jon, the answer to that question is a clear No, the No that led to the creation of b.good in 2004. They tell the story of how Anthony’s uncle used to feed them excellent meals when they were kids and how later they combined a love for fast food and qualitative food in… b.good!

How is it better than traditional fast-food chains?

-First, their ingredients are all sourced locally. Concretely, it means your beef hasn’t traveled in a private jet from Argentina or the US just because it is cheaper to source it from there.

All the raw materials used in the menu, from the potatoes to the bread, come from Ontario’s producers. Cheddar cheese? From Bright Cheese and Butter, in Bright. Turkey? From Hayter’s farm, in Oashwood. All their restaurants have a big map where they show the exact locations of their partners / producers.

Now, there is another thing I like about the idea of local, apart from the benefits in terms of CO2 emissions. I like that it reconnects us with the farmers who feed us. When I went to b.good on Queen West, I spent some time reading the book where they introduce all their providers, showing their pictures, the pictures of their farms…It was a healthy reminder that supermarkets don’t feed us! These people do.

-b.good also serves seasonal food. Quite logically, their menu adapts to the seasons and to what nature has to offer during each season. We got used to fast-food chains serving the same invariable food all year round and it became normal to us.

-Last thing I like about them is that they communicate openly about nutrition facts. Their website displays a very clear and visible tab of nutrition facts for all their meals.

You may also wonder at this point: is their food actually good and tasty? It definitely is. From all the times I have been there, I have never been disappointed.

But I’ll be totally frank. When I go to a fast food, I want fat. I want to feel the fat in my mouth and enjoy a ten-minute little death that will leave a more lasting print in  my body.  There, the fat lovers in us will be less satisfied for sure. What it means is we need to work on our addiction to fat, salt and sugar and to reeducate ourselves.

Where in TO?

For now, b.goo has 3 locations in Toronto:

-100 Front Street East (just behind St Lawrence market

-573 Queen Street West

-10 King Street East