THUNDER BAY – Shop Local – This September we are celebrating the end of our first year in business at Eat Local. We are still consistently humbled by the overwhelming support we receive in Thunder Bay. From the many and truly varied helping hands put forward from the local business community to each interested individual who called or dropped by with a question: We may have began this venture dedicated to our motto of doing our part within the community, yet it seems that we would be hard pressed to determine if we in fact did more for the community than you all did for us. We love that synergy and it motivates us to find new creative ways to help out in the coming year. We have found a lot of success in our three main areas of focus: Local Product, Community Donations and Nutrition.
Local Product: This year we began Eat Local with the idea in mind that we would foster relationships with producers of local goods. The goal being to source as many components of a pizza as possible from within the community while still maintaining a price low enough to keep it accessible to everyone.
One key link we made was between Brule Creek Farms and Windy Lane Farm. By growing wheat on one and having the other mill it into flour we have developed a solid sustainable source of a product both key to pizza and unique to our own business. Two other businesses we have been working in conjunction with on a regular basis and hopefully more and more as our volume increases are Debruins Greenhouses and Bogdalas Smoked Meats. As we grow we plan on providing these producers with a solid reliable source of revenue and building a sustainable relationship that we can all profit from.
This spring we began running a table at the Thunder Bay Country Market. For this we built our “Market Pizzas”. These are three different types of pizzas where the dough, sauce, cheese and toppings are all made completely from ingredients sourced from Thunder Bay.
We really enjoy having a presence at the market and getting to work hand in hand with the skilled farmers and artisans of our community. We are now beginning to stock local retail goods. This fall we plan to market local flour, pancake and bread mixes, honey, pickles, jams, 3 different lines of local pasta sauce and coffee made at the Great Northwest Coffee Company. As our sales continue to rise we can continue to purchase and sell more and more locally made products.
Community Donations: During this year we have run fundraisers, assisted in awareness campaigns and developed systems to make food accessible to those who otherwise might not be able to eat. The food security of our city is of great concern to us. We continually maintain that “We will sell to someone who wants to eat and feed those that are hungry.” In order to better explain our plans for the future as our revenue expands it is a good idea to highlight some of what we managed to do on our shoestring budget this year.
On Canada Food Day this year Eat Local gathered up as much local ingredients as it could and provided all the meals to everyone at The Shelter House free of charge for the whole day. Eat Local also provides free pizzas to The Shelter House one night a week every week.
When it was determined that the evacuees from northern forest fires would not have food for the evening Eat Local donated pizzas and drinks for everyone. Eat Local also followed this up the next day by sponsoring a barbecue alongside the Regional Multi-Cultural Youth Centre, and NetNewsledger.com for the evacuees.
During the last week of August: Eat Local put on a week long fundraiser called the “Deliver a Smile” campaign. The idea being to give customers a great deal on a pizza delivery combination while donating half the proceeds to Big Brothers Big Sisters. Eat Local also worked on various projects throughout the year with Big Bros, Big Sis to bring healthy pizza and fun activities into schools.
Our “Pizza for Kids Without Lunches” program was a great success. We have been making free pizzas on Monday mornings for teachers to pick up and bring to school for kids that would otherwise be without food that day.
While we have made many donations of both food and money worth over $50,000 to over 20 local organizations on this our first year, we look forward to doing over double that in our second year. Eat Local has tried to in one way or another help every organization who has approached us. We are so excited to discover new avenues to help bring food to the tables of those who need it this year.
Nutrition: Throughout the year we have striven to identify and accomplish various nutritional goals. Our business plan was originally formed around the 2010 Food Resource Guide for Ontario School Boards. We had designed a pizza that would adhere to its strict guidelines while still being a product that the youth of our city would love. We were overjoyed at the warm response from both the Lakehead and Catholic School Boards respectively. This year we dealt with 14 different schools. While providing a healthy pizza for the youth of our city we also made sure to keep it very price competitive. At $7.97 plus tax it is one of the cheapest available pizzas in Thunder Bay.
After being prompted by a friend who is a representative of the Diabetes Association we did some work to make our product safer for those who had type 2 diabetes which is very prevalent in Northern Ontario.
Here are a few steps we took to make our pizza more accessible to those with dietary health issues:
- We lowered the total sodium in both the crust and sauce.
- We began sourcing lower fat ingredients while ensuring we remove trans fats completely whenever possible.
- We have avoided preservatives in all our pizzas and baking.
Plans for Year Two at Eat Local: This coming year we plan to reduce conventional advertising and redistribute the money we would have spent on buying more local product and donate to even more people who need a hand. We will increase the donations to the shelter house by two or three times the amount we currently do.
By keeping a close eye on the local news and listening to issues in the community we have been able to identify and access places where we can make a difference. Now armed with the contacts we have made so far we believe we will be able to more accurately place donations in the hands and stomachs where they are most needed.
By working hand in hand with The Study at Lakehead University we plan on sponsoring regular fundraisers this year.
We plan on becoming a larger patron of the local community gardens and increasing the support we are able to provide.
Starting in September we will begin to stay open late until 3am on Tuesday through Saturday. Offering Deliveries and pick ups until then.
We plan to begin offering pasta made with local flour and locally grown salads as an alternative lunch option.
We will continue to offer free delivery to Lakehead University and Confederation College, while expanding our free delivery to all schools in both school boards.
As Eat Local continues to grow, so will our ability to continually reinvent ourselves and reinvest in our community.
Thank you very much everyone.
You can visit Eat Local Pizza on their Facebook page.