Save on Meats restaurant lets customers buy sandwiches for homeless with new token program

Jordana Divon
Contributing Writer
Shine On

Many Canadian businesses give money to charity, but few enact ways to make a tangible difference in their community.

That's why Mark Brand's plan to feed the homeless out of his Eastside Vancouver diner shows real thinking outside the lunch box.

As the Province reports, Brand is set to launch a program allowing customers to purchase tokens that people on the streets can then redeem in his restaurant, Save on Meats, for a hot $2.25 breakfast sandwich.

The idea is to ensure panhandlers get a good meal in their system instead of using the money they collect for less healthy alternatives — a reality that often discourages well-intentioned people from sparing some change.

Also see: The Perfect Bite: The best chicken noodle soup for fighting a cold

"They (the tokens) are not transferable and they will never be traded for cash," Brand tells the paper.

So far, Brand has manufactured 10,000 tokens for purchase at his restaurant and a website where people can buy them online is currently in the works. Until then, token orders can be made through email at

Though Brand's move has been roundly applauded, several commenters took umbrage to the story.

Tracy Lynn Tobin, who works at PHS Community Services Society, expressed her distaste that Brand was trying to pass his initiative off as a charity.

PHS works to provide affordable housing to adults at risk of homelessness due to physical or mental illness.

"The issue for me is not even the token system itself (which I think is flawed) but that he seems to be taking credit as a charity. He is SELLING charity not GIVING it. And he is profiting in public opinion and in free advertising for his business," she writes.

Also see: 'Milking' video an internet sensation: Funny prank or waste of food?

Another commenter was even less charitable in her assessment.

"This is incredibly patronizing, and a half-assed attempt at atonement for gentrification. Here's hoping Mark Brand decides to improve the DTES by leaving it," writes Katie Streibel.

Someone also pointed out that the tokens may be non-transferrable in the restaurant, but they could still be traded for cash on the street.

Others sprang to Brand's defense, arguing that it shouldn't matter whether he's making a profit as long as it's helping others.

This isn't the first time the tokens initiative has been introduced., a non-profit organization in Portland, Ore., offers tokens for purchase that can then be redeemed for a number of necessities like food, clothing, transportation, and even haircuts.