Manitoba immigrants curbing hunger one pizza slice at a time

Shelby Thevenot
Published: September 3, 2019

Each sticky note on the wall of SFC Pizzeria in Winnipeg, Manitoba, symbolizes a meal for someone in need.

Vikas Sanger and Shivani Sanger are immigrants from New Delhi, India. Shivani works as a dental hygienist and Vikas owns the restaurant where he got the idea for the “Pay It Forward Pizza Program.”

Vikas came to Winnipeg in 2010 as an international student at the University of Manitoba, where he studied business. He got his permanent residence in 2015 after receiving a provincial nomination through the Skilled Worker in Manitoba Stream.

In 2016 he bought a gas station and expanded the business to a laundromat, and eventually SFC Pizzeria.

Under the “Pay It Forward Pizza Program,” customers have the option of donating $1 towards a free slice of pizza or samosa for someone else. They are then given a sticky note, where they write a few kind words before placing it on the wall. People who don’t have money can use one of these notes to pay for their food.

Vikas told CIC News that the idea came to him just two days after opening the business when someone came in asking for a slice of pizza, but didn’t have $1 to pay him.

He let the man have the pizza for free.

“I opened the restaurant two days ago,” he said. “I cannot afford to give a slice to everybody, but I cannot deny them, as per my culture— in my culture you don’t deny food or water to anybody.”

After talking to Shivani about what happened they came up with a “buy a slice, give a slice” policy. Then, in June 2019, they launched the “Pay It Forward Pizza Program.”

At first, they put a sign on the wall where the sticky notes would go that read “Kindness Matters” in big letters on the top and “Pay It Forward” on the bottom. They would also promote the idea whenever someone came in to order, asking if they would like to make a donation.

Their wall became decorated with colourful sticky notes bearing messages, or as Vikas calls them, “blessings,” such as “Enjoy the pizza;” and “Hope you have a beautiful day.”

Though Vikas said the number of donations has slowed down in the past few weeks, they are still feeding around 20 to 25 people per day.

“It feels so good, you know, when you see people... giving their blessings,” he said.

Vikas said he will continue the buy-one-give-one operation for as long as he is running a business.

“I just want to eliminate hunger around the city — around Canada,” he said, “Anyone who can do it, they should try to do it.”

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© 2019 CIC News All Rights Reserved

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