Canadian Consulting Engineer

2023 #CCEAwards Showcase: Million Meals Campaign

October 26, 2023

“A very purposeful, programmatic and well-executed project, with clear goals. It will have a lasting benefit.” - Jury

Million Meals Campaign

Photo courtesy Dillon Consulting.

Category: Community Outreach and In-house Initiatives

Outreach Award and Award of Excellence Winner: Dillon Consulting

Dillon launched the Million Meals Campaign to help sustainably combat food insecurity across Canada. The specific goal was to provide the equivalent of one million meals throughout the communities where the firm’s employees live and work.

The campaign targeted the root causes of food insecurity by working directly with organizations within these communities, which involved employee volunteer hours, in-kind pro bono consulting services and donations. In March 2022, the firm met its goal, supporting more than 250 organizations throughout the country.

Committing support

Dillon launched the campaign in October 2020 in response to the United Nations’ (UN’s) Sustainable Development Goal #2: Zero Hunger. As a signatory to the UN Global Compact, Dillon has committed to principled business practices.

In addition to providing the one million meals, the firm worked to help solve some of the problems associated with the root causes of food insecurity and, in doing so, contribute to a transformation of existing systems. In 2021, Dillon solicited pro bono consulting applications from non-profit organizations in its communities, so as to support their immediate needs relating to food security.

The applications were evaluated on the basis of such factors as feasibility, impact and geographical diversity. Dillon then awarded its pro bono services to nine non-profit food organizations to help increase their impact and remove barriers in their communities.

These services included:

  • Engineering design and support services.
  • Landscape architecture.
  • Planning.
  • Hydrogeology and other water resources expertise.
  • Engagement.
  • Feasibility studies.
  • Geographic information system (GIS) mapping.
  • Project management and co-ordination.
  • Manual labour (through employee volunteer hours).
  • Cash donations.
  • Tender support.

By way of example, Dillon provided site engineering and design services to help Outflow Ministry develop a new ‘Outflow Farm’ in Kings County, N.B., to bolster the charity’s efforts to assist people living in poverty. The firm’s services supported the overall site layout, including tiny homes, cabins and a septic system, and included a structural assessment for a barn in need of repair.

In another example, the farm-based charity Everdale asked for help in designing an approximately 10-acre ‘good food forest’ in Erin, Ont., that would eventually yield 250,000 lb of fresh, sustainable produce annually. Dillon provided landscape architecture, planning, hydrogeology and water resources services.

From strategy to policy

Dillon created a corporate sustainability strategy more than 10 years ago, which incorporates goals for improving the social well-being of employees and minimizing the firm’s environmental impact. These goals include achieving and maintaining carbon neutrality and donating to external community and environmental organizations.

Since then, the strategy has evolved into a policy that guides Dillon’s business operations. The firm signed the UN Global Compact in 2019 and committed to continue expanding the boundaries of its corporate sustainability practices.

In 2020, Dillon decided to dedicate its efforts on the UN’s zero-hunger sustainable development goal (SDG), among others. Launching the Million Meals Campaign as a focus of community contribution, in the firm’s 75th year of operation, would align with both Dillon’s own policy and the UN’s SDGs.


Employees contributed volunteer hours in communities across Canada. Photo courtesy Dillon Consulting.

More than cash

The most basic cost of one meal for a Canadian ranges between $2.42 and $5.49. This meant Dillon would need to donate approximately $5.5 million to ensure one million meals would be provided, using cash donations.

However, through discussions with not-profit organizations, the firm understood cash donations can only get them so far. Resources would also be needed to pay for technical assistance, such as engineering project support, to remove barriers ingrained in food security systems.

Dillon realized it could offer pro bono technical support to further deliver on its commitment. So, the firm leveraged its employees’ volunteer time, by continuing to encourage staff to help out in their communities, with the support of corporate sponsorship for their time.

As well, the firm offered technical expertise toward larger projects, which required input from staff across the country. These sponsorship scenarios were referred to as ‘cornerstone projects.’

Finally, Dillon challenged its staff to focus on not-for-profit food organizations when allocating the firm’s annual environment and community impact fund, comprising more than 1% of its pre-tax profits.

When Dillon created the campaign, no one knew when the goal would be met. After its 1,000 employees rose to the challenge and helped communities across the country, the campaign provided its one-millionth meal in March 2022, just 18 months after the launch.

The support for more than 250 not-for-profit organizations across Canada has involved more than 1,100 hours of staff time on Dillon’s sponsored pro bono cornerstone projects, plus more than 1,500 hours of sponsored staff time volunteering in the communities. Through these efforts, employees have established new connections and increased their understanding of food security issues across the country.

The solutions to the challenges faced by these organizations have not always been obvious, but the campaign helped explore these challenges and collaborated with the organizations to deliver solutions with the greatest impact for their communities, improving food access for people in need.

Instead of a $5.5-milion donation, Dillon’s multi-faceted approach helped deliver one million meals at a cost of just over $700,000, with 38% of this value contributed by volunteer hours.

Following the initial campaign’s success, Dillon decided to continue it through 2024 with an effort dubbed ‘One Million Meals and Counting.’ Again, the firm is not only trying to provide as many meals as possible, but also to help solve problems associated with the root causes of food insecurity and transform systems to benefit future generations. As such, the campaign will specifically partner with community organizations for which the firm is best-positioned to support through its service offerings.

Million Meals Campaign, various locations across Canada.

Award-winning firm (prime consultant): Dillon Consulting, Toronto, Ont. (Sean Hanlon, B.Sc., B.Eng., P.Eng.; Joe Muraca, MES, MCIP, RPP; Mychal-Ann Hayhoe, M.Sc., Ph.D., AIT; Crystal Cooper, PMP; Andy Blackmer, M.Sc., P.Geo.; Darla Campbell, P.Eng., CSR-P, FEC; Rebecca Eldridge, M.Sc.).

Owner: Dillon Consulting.


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