For Mohamad Fakih, CEO of Paramount Fine Foods, a lifelong commitment to kindness began with an old shoebox at the front door of his childhood home in Lebanon.
“Every morning, my Mom would give us $5.25 for lunch. When we left for school, we always gave 25 cents of it to that shoebox for Sadaqah (voluntary giving),” Fakih recalls in a new video interview with World Vision President and CEO, Michael Messenger to mark World Food Day.
“She ingrained in us that you’re only going to have a great day if you’ve helped someone else,” Fakih says.
It was a philosophy that he’s maintained even through his toughest personal challenges. After escaping a deadly civil war in Lebanon, he sought refuge in Canada. He worked hard to build a new life in a new country, working at a jewelry store by day for no pay to get work experience --- and at night, working shifts at Tim Hortons to make ends meet.
His hard work paid off. After scraping together the funds to buy his first restaurant 15 years ago, he has built Paramount Fine Foods into a global chain with more than 80 locations and 2,500 employees.
That personal dedication to kindness has also been integral to his business model. “What I’m proud about Paramount is that it is an example of a movement --- not a business. It sends a message that you can be successful and kind at the same time,” Fakih says.
Despite the financial pressures caused by the pandemic, Fakih has been able to maintain that culture of kindness through Paramount, which has been dedicated to hiring refugees and supporting staff through the COVID-19 lockdowns. As party of Paramount’s community outreach, it supports many charitable endeavors both here in Canada and for the most vulnerable people around the world.
It’s the kind of generosity that is needed now more than ever. Rising global hunger due to food inflation caused by the COVID-19 economic crunch is a rapidly growing crisis. According to recent World Vision reports, secondary impacts of the pandemic have become more devastating that the virus itself. The agency has warned that pandemic-related malnutrition could kill hundreds more children per day and lead to millions more child marriages as desperate families try to reduce the number of mouths they need to feed.
“The food crisis is unjustifiable,” Fakih says. “We should invest more to help the countries that don’t have enough grow more food for themselves. I like World Vision’s approach on that. The many countries with more than enough need to share --- and share faster.”
“The food crisis can be resolved. But what’s missing is political will.”
While food insecurity can increase conflict globally, Fakih believes that food has the power to bring people together to appreciate their differences through deeper dialogue and understanding.
“The world needs more good people willing to do good things,” he says. “And the world needs more people from different cultures to sit down and share a meal. At least 90 per cent of all problems can be resolved by breaking bread together.”
You can help vulnerable families get enough to eat by supporting local Paramount Fine Foods restaurants or through donations to World Vision Canada’s Gift Catalogue.