Congratulations to Mark Brand, 2013's #16 Top Innovator in B.C.

It’s with good reason that Gastown restaurateur and Save On Meat Inc. owner Mark Brand is lauded as a shrewd business person, prolific entrepreneur and now, an innovator.

Launched in November 2012, Brand’s Save on Meats meal token program helps feed Vancouver’s homeless community by selling $2.25 tokens, which donors give to the needy, who redeem them for a sandwich. The tokens give peace of mind to those who want to help but are wary of giving cash, and more importantly, they put food in the hands of those who need it most.

Innovators panellist David Allison points out that the program’s greater impact is its ability to effect change in a social and cultural sense. “Bravo from an innovative perspective for coming up with something that is helping to stitch the social fabric of this neighbourhood together in a more complete way,” says Allison. He adds that in an area undergoing densification, the meal-token program is a humane way for those of us who can help to make a difference and to create positive relationships in a neighbourhood that’s “about mixing.”

Brand estimates that between 60 and 100 Downtown Eastside residents redeem tokens daily. Approximately 4,000 of the original run of 10,000 tokens sold in the few weeks following the November launch.

Last summer Brand met with Toronto chef and restaurateur Rodney Bowers, who is duplicating the program at his two restaurants. With one spinoff already in the works, there’s no telling how far this innovation may spread.