Heart to Home Meals delivers meals to seniors while helping to feed local communities when they need it most
By Stefanie Ucci
At Heart to Home Meals, their mission is to deliver nutritious and delicious meals, soups, and desserts directly to seniors who choose to age at home. But nourishing seniors isn’t the only thing the franchise does to serve its communities. As a local food supplier, Heart to Home Meals actively donates to charitable programs and food banks to help those in need, and one meal goes a long way.
“Our franchisees make local donations where they see fit and a number of them do that. Corporately, as food producers, most of what we do is around the donation of goods,” explains Nigel Richards, president of Heart to Home Meals Canada.
For about a decade, Richards says that Heart to Home Meals has supported The Salvation Army when the organization had a need for donations. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the franchise has donated more than 16,000 meals to the organization.
“The Salvation Army has been a cause that we’ve long supported because they run the homeless shelters and support the communities,” says Richards. “It was an extraordinary amount of food that we gave at Christmas, for them and for us. It was a very difficult holiday season for people who were food insecure. It was unusual in many ways, and there was a bigger need than in normal years, so we were happy to rise to that challenge.”
Heart to Home Meals has also donated nearly 5,000 meals to the Daily Bread Food Bank in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). “The Daily Bread Food Bank has been new to us [during the pandemic] but is a really good cause in supporting those who are food insecure in the GTA,” adds Richards. “We’re a broader, national business, but our food storage is in Toronto and therefore supporting locally for us as a manufacturer is the way to go.”
Additionally, Heart to Home Meals makes a corporate donation to the Poppy Appeal each year, and many franchisees support a cause at their local Royal Canadian Legion. “We serve a lot of veterans with meals in our business so that’s very close to our values,” explains Richards. He also notes that the brand contributes meals to Alzheimer’s support, senior centres and organizations, and other food insecurity fundraisers that require donations.
The pandemic has introduced changes to the Heart to Home Meals business structure, including the way drivers interact with and support customers. Richards explains that before COVID-19, delivery drivers would bring boxes of meals into customers’ homes and sometimes be asked to put it into their freezers. Now, the brand delivers two to three weeks’ worth of meals at a time to eliminate trips. And with social distancing protocols, drivers can only leave the boxes outside of homes, with customers placing stools on their front porch so the packaged goods don’t go directly on the ground. Drivers, however, still try to maintain socially distant contact with customers by waving and saying “hi” through the window.
Additionally, the brand switched its contact primarily to telephone, so customer service operators do more outreach to customers by phone, which Richards notes is the main conversation of the day for some seniors and is an important support tool.
“Extraordinary times needed an extraordinary response,” Richards says about Heart to Home Meals’ charitable efforts during the pandemic. He adds that the reason the franchise and most charities do what they do for donations “isn’t because it’s a date in the calendar or because there’s a pandemic. It’s because there’s something going on every day and they need that support, and we’re happy to be investigating ways that we can do that.”
As for future endeavours, Richards says the brand is “always looking for new ways to support causes,” especially those that fit its values and customer base. He notes that Heart to Home Meals is looking to announce a new charitable initiative shortly that sees the franchise participating in a more regular cause giving contribution to local communities.
Heart to Home Meals recruits and awards franchises very carefully, says Richards, who notes the franchise network is currently at 18 locations across the country and will be at about 25 or 26 when it’s fully sold out. “We’re an aligned group and it’s important as we continue to award additional new franchises that we select people to be a Heart to Home franchisee [with the goal of] getting a strong return on investment, but also having sympathy and a real want to help seniors and to make a difference in their community.”