Visions of Sugar Plums: 9 Gifts That Give Back for the Foodie on Your List
Scratch the foodie off your holiday list and support a worthy cause at the same time with gifts that give back. Photo: Courtesy of Coming Together/Rus Yessenov/Fairmont Royal York
Looking for the perfect gift for the gourmand on your list? Try forgoing the big-box retailers and e-commerce giants for these companies that offer great gift options with the added bonus of supporting a worthy cause.
1. Moët Hennessy
The hard-hit hospitality industry was anything but bubbly in the past year. Part of the luxury house LVMH, Moët Hennessy Canada has donated thousands of dollars to the Bartenders Benevolent Fund, a Canadian non-profit founded in 2013 to support hospitality workers in financial trouble, and produced a one-off magazine devoted to cocktail creativity.
The Gift: Coming Together ($25), a coffee-table bookazine, features cocktail recipes from 50 mixologists across Canada.
The Good: Proceeds from the sale of each magazine go to the Canadian cocktail creators, who were also paid for their submissions. mhcomingtogether.com; Chapters Indigo
2. Birch Bark Coffee Company
Entrepreneur Mark Marsolais-Nahwegahbow, an Ojibwe who is a member of the Whitefish River First Nation on Ontario’s Manitoulin Island, is on a mission to bring clean drinking water to every Indigenous home under a boil-water advisory. He founded the Birch Bark Coffee Company in 2018, which sells organic, fair trade and Small Producers’ Symbol (SPP)-certified coffee.
The Gift: Choose from six different roasts, ranging from light to dark, or the Dream Catcher decaf blend (from $16). Each bag contains a brief explanation of the significance to Indigenous people of the coffee’s name — Inukshuk and Summer Solstice, for example.
The Good: Every 100 bags of Birch Bark Coffee sold in stores and every 50 bags sold online allow the company to provide and install a water-purification system in an Indigenous home. birchbarkcoffeecompany.com
3.The Maritime Box
This Nova Scotia-based gift boutique offers a selection of products made in the Maritimes. Customize a gift box or select one of the curated collections that feature unique crafts and flavours of the East Coast.
The Gift: Choose the Cozy Nights ($99.85) or Gourmet gift box ($65.60, pictured left), which both include a bottle of Hope Blooms dressing.
The Good: This gift gives twice. The company plants a tree for every gift box sold, and the purchase supports Hope Blooms, a youth-driven social enterprise and registered charity that encourages youth to become change-makers and leaders. Through entrepreneurship and education in urban agriculture, the organization lifts a community that has experienced racialized poverty for generations. Its Fresh Herb Dressing enterprise, where youth grow herbs and create the dressing, puts 100 per cent of the profits into their scholarship fund. Each recipient receives a yearly scholarship of $4,000 for post-secondary education. themaritimebox.com
4. The Company: Worthy Jams
When founder Ashlee Steinhauer was in a 12-step program for addiction issues, she began making preserves, and then decided to turn her jam-making passion into a business. During her time in recovery, she noticed a common thread among those around her: a sense of feeling unworthy. The jams got a new name and this Calgary-based company now helps others recover from addiction.
The Gift: Worthy has three main jams: Earl Grey Lavender Peach, Strawberry Cardamom and Vanilla Rhubarb. For the holidays, the company is launching the limited-edition Gingersnap Apple ($8.59), with the flavours of Christmas in a jar.
The Good: Worthy is a certified partner with Pachira Empower Giving, a shopping platform where customers can buy items from retailers and earn money in a virtual “giving fund,” which they can use to donate to charities. Worthy also donates 10 per cent of its profits to Canadian recovery charities. worthyjams.com
5. Foo Hung Curios
The gift shop inside the new Chinatown Storytelling Centre in Vancouver, the first permanent space of its kind in the country, houses exhibits dedicated to preserving and sharing the history and future of the neighbourhood east of the downtown core. With photos and artifacts dating back to the 1880s, interactive exhibits share the powerful stories of Chinese Canadians who lived and worked there.
The Gift: These handcrafted dim sum candles ($45) in a bamboo steamer will last longer than the real thing. Created with the same folding and pinching techniques used to make real dim sum, they’re a perfect gift for the dumpling lover. Throw in a pair of fortune cookie socks ($20) and share the luck.
The Good: Proceeds from Foo Hung Curios gift shop go towards the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation, a registered charity dedicated to revitalizing the area, helping those in need and preserving the community’s cultural heritage. foohungcurios.com
6. Boxing Rock Brewing Co.
Named after a legendary rock in the harbour in Shelburne, N.S., the brewery collaborated with the Change is Brewing Collective, which advocates for racial inclusion and diversity in the craft beverage industry, to create the Back to Birchtown Old Stock Ale this year.
The Gift: With aromas of mild bourbon, caramel and roasted coffee, Back to Birchtown ($5.04) replicates the style of a similar brew made when the Black Loyalists of Nova Scotia, supporters of the British forces in the American Revolution, settled in the Birchtown community near Shelburne in 1783.
The Good: Proceeds from the beer are donated to the Change is Brewing Collective and the Black Loyalist Heritage Society in Birchtown.
7. Cà Phê Vietnamese Coffee House
This social enterprise in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside introduces people to a community of local artisans, greengrocers, food producers and butchers to form a connection between producer and consumer.
The Gift: Vietnamese Coffee Kits include the Ultimate Package ($125): ground coffee, filter, server, condensed milk, coffee chocolate and coffee scrub. Cà Phê uses custom dark coffee beans from Vietnam, roasted in butter with a hint of rum. The beans are ground and filtered through a Vietnamese “phin,” similar to a coffee filter. Traditionally, it is enjoyed with condensed milk.
The Good: Proceeds from Cà Phê Vietnamese Coffee House fund community programming. caphecoffeehouse.com
Gargoyle Wine Club, a wine subscription service based out of Toronto and Oakville, Ont., has a Drink Better Initiative in collaboration with the global non-profit, Water.org, founded by actor Matt Damon and entrepreneur Gary White, which raises money to provide safe water and sanitation to people in Africa, Asia and South America.
The Gift: Memberships start at $79 a month for two bottles and go up to $379 for 12 bottles a month. Concierge services help personalize your picks; plus, they have a whisky club for the spirit tipplers.
The Good: Every bottle of wine purchased gives one person access to clean, safe water for a year, and more than 100,000 have already benefited. gargoylewineclub.com
9. Cooks Who Feed
An apron is essential for any chef, and every one sold by Cooks Who Feed, founded by Seema Sanghavi in Mississauga, Ont., provides 100 nutritious meals through partnerships with charities in India, the U.S. and Canada that collect surplus food that would otherwise go to waste. Ethical production is key, and the company tracks waste and water usage while producing aprons in an environmentally conscious way.
The Gift: Named after celebrity cooks — like Christine Cushing — who support the cause, adult-sized aprons go for $79, and there are kid-sized aprons for the mini-chef.
The Good: In addition to diverting food from landfills and providing nourishing meals to those in need, Cooks Who Feed supports an NGO in Delhi, India, that hires marginalized women and gives them a fair wage, safe work environment and income security. cookswhofeed.com
A version this article appeared in Dec/Jan 2021 issue with the headline “Visions of Sugar Plums,” p. 70.