In 2020, MAZON Canada estimates we provided an average of 1000 meals each day through our partners.
We have almost 200 very diverse partner programs across the country. Some serve hot dinners; some provide hampers of ingredients. We are often asked:
How do we calculate our impact when every food program is different?
There's many types of programs that serve many kinds of food-insecure people. An identical $3000 grant might accomplish very different things at different programs:
One might be a small community center with a weekly dinner program that serves about 60 people each week, mostly people living without shelter. At a program like this, even a modest grant from Mazon might cover 2 whole months of food.
Another might be a large food bank that distributes hundreds of hampers each week, each full of food for a dozen meals. At an organization like this, Mazon's funding might only cover a few days of their total annual food budget.
Another might be a school breakfast program for children, where Mazon's funding would cover the specific purchase of apples and yogurt cups - but not muffins - and would last a whole semester.
Some programs are seasonal - so the exact number of meals served on any given day varies. That's why we use averages to explain our impact simply. For example:
School lunches pause for summer and winter breaks.
'Out Of The Cold' winter emergency shelters run only in colder months.
Passover food drives happen only once a year!
Their cost per meal varies, too. We ask all our partners to calculate their 'cost per meal' so we can see how far our funding stretches - for example, dividing how much they spend on food in a month by how many meals they serve. In some cases cost per meal might be offset by donated food, but the flow of food donations can be unreliable, particularly for smaller organizations*.
Some organizations, especially large ones, have relationships with big food rescue organizations or grocery stores that deliver them unwanted food. These programs only have to buy a small amount of the food they distribute - they might spend only $1 per meal, since most of the food is donated.
Other programs, especially small ones, can't get the food they need donated and have to buy everything they serve. *For example, a meal delivery program for Jewish seniors that serves only rarely-donated Kosher food might have to spend $10 per meal.
So how do we calculate our impact when all these programs are very different?
We take our grant to each program and divide it by their unique cost per meal.
We add up all the meal totals from all our 198 partners.
We divide that total by 365 days in a year!
That's how we know we provided over 365,000 meals through Mazon in 2020 - or 1000 meals each day on average!
But even better: The actual impact of our work is probably even higher than 1000 meals a day in 2020 - because we funded programs like community gardens, Indigenous country food harvests, and infrastructure upgrades that aren't counted in that meal number. If we buy an organization a fridge, they can receive an extra 250 lbs of fresh, healthy donated food each month from that point on, and store it safely before they can distribute it - but we didn't count those as "our meals" in our average meals per day count, since we didn't provide the food. By increasing their capacity, we definitely still had an impact!
Eventually we'll do the work of figuring out how to accurately describe our full impact, too. Why haven't we done that yet? Because like many of our partners, we're also a small, grassroots non-profit with only 3 staff members! We're always looking for volunteers who can help us with tasks like calling our partners to learn more details their programs, getting that detailed information up on our website, and figuring out how to share this complicated work with our supporters across Canada in simple, accessible ways.
If you would like to volunteer, please email us at email@example.com!
* "Why don't these programs just get donated food?" -
There are many barriers that stand in the way of food organizations receiving donated food. For example:
A program might be in a rural area where there is no large grocery store nearby to donate leftover food.
A small organization might not have enough storage, especially fridge or freezer storage, to receive donated food before volunteers can be summoned to distribute it.
Other programs might need specialty food that's rarely donated because they serve a particular client base with specific nutritional needs, like children in cancer treatment on chemo-friendly diets, or observant Jewish seniors who eat only Kosher food.
Things are always more complicated than they seem. That's why Mazon is so proud to support these programs in feeding their communities!