Diversity Foods Provides Values-Driven Food Services

Would you have guessed that the most progressive, values-driven food service initiative in Canada is serving up change right here in Winnipeg? Assiniboine member Diversity Foods, and the brainchild of two non-profits organizations — SEED Winnipeg and the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation — is just that.

Diversity Foods was created to have an important impact in several ways.

  • To significantly improve the quality of food for students at the University of Winnipeg.
  • To create good quality jobs for people with barriers to employment.
  • To support local and sustainable food producers by shifting their purchasing to these suppliers.

Aiming for a truly triple bottom line, they have achieved amazing results on all three fronts.

From Cafeteria Food to Healthy, Homemade and Delicious

It was no secret that the quality of food served at University of Winnipeg could be improved, but likely few anticipated just how good things would become. Now, in it’s sixth year, Diversity Foods runs the university’s three cafeterias — Pangea’s Kitchen, Malecon, and Café Bodhi. They also operate a fine-dining restaurant called Elements, and Diversity Catering that just surpassed a significant milestone with their 10,000th catering order.

Having the opportunity to connect to a local financial institution whose passion and motivation is so directly tied to this community is very important. They have a better understanding of the history and challenges we have and they understand the goals of this community.

~Kirsten Godbout, Manager, Diversity Foods

This past summer, the Winnipeg Folk Festival hired them to serve 52,000 healthy, locally sourced meals to musicians and volunteers. Constantly innovating, they recently launched a retail line of “Diversity To Go” meals available throughout Winnipeg, and participated in the Table for 1200, which turned Esplanade Riel into a 1200 foot long dining table.

Everything is made from scratch, sourced locally and sustainably, and the skill level of the kitchen crews is top notch. Chef Ben Kramer won the 2010 Winnipeg Iron Chef competition and Chef Kelly Cattani won the Gold Medal at the 2013 Gold Medal Plates Manitoba. Simply put, the food is delicious!

Providing Quality Employment

Their mission of creating jobs for local people with barriers to employment means that currently 72 people, 64 per cent of them with various barriers to employment, have a good job at a great place to work. In 2013, Diversity was also named a Disability Employment Awareness Month Champion of Diversity. But while a job is an important pathway out of poverty, Diversity Foods also recognizes that some Winnipeg residents simply need food to eat to get through the day and provides food donations to the University’s food bank, Agape Table, Siloam Mission, and many other community organizations.

Diversity UofW SEED Group
Photo Credit: Diane Poulin, U of W

Demonstrating Success Through Social and Environmental Decisions

Diversity Foods is demonstrating that being a successful food service business driven by a social and environmental mission can be extremely effective.

Purchasing Local

They have been recognized nationally as a model for changing how institutional food is purchased which is why they partnered with Food Matters Manitoba to create a Sustainable Procurement Toolkit. Diversity currently buys 65 per cent of their supply from local family farms, 50 per cent within 100 kms of downtown Winnipeg, supporting the livelihoods of nearly 100 local food producers. They source all their coffee from local roaster Green Bean Coffee Imports, who supplies 100 per cent fair trade and organic coffee.

Local food purchasing awarded Diversity an impressive 33 points, with 65 per cent of items coming from local, family farms within 100km of the establishment.

— LEAF — Leaders in Environmentally Accountable Foodservice

Thinking about the Environment

Diversity Foods also has full recycling and composting programs, and are 100 per cent compliant with Ocean Wise standards for sustainable seafood. Their dedication to being environmental leaders was recognized with the 2010 Manitoba Excellence in Sustainability Award as well as Golden Carrot Awards in 2010 and 2013. .

These important social and environmental impacts are why every single sale matters, and you can participate too! Every time you buy food from any one of the Diversity Foods outlets, you know that your dollar is not only investing in something delicious to eat, but also supporting local and sustainable food producers as well as creating jobs for people with barriers to employment. What’s not to love about that win-win-win result.

Assiniboine has been a proud supporter of Diversity Foods in many different ways, since the beginning. With our commitment to values-based banking, we understand the positive impact of social and environmental food purchasing decisions.

Diversity Food Services

About Brendan Reimer

Brendan is Assiniboine’s Strategic Partner of Values-Based Banking. As the former Manitoba Regional Director at the Canadian CED Network, member of the Social Enterprise Council of Canada, former board member at LITE and former member of ACU’s Board of Directors, Brendan is a passionate educator and organizer dedicated to creating inclusive, fairer, and more sustainable economies and communities.

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