In early October, a group of students from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax just narrowly missed representing the rest of Canada at the Enactus World Cup in Puerto Rico.
While just missing the cut, it certainly doesn’t diminish the Enactus Saint Mary’s team’s incredible efforts to adopt business as a way to tackle social issues and affect change in local communities.
Under the broader umbrella of Enactus Canada, Enactus Saint Mary’s is a community of student, academic and business leaders who enable progress with a variety of projects based in entrepreneurial efforts and action.
“Personal development is the number one thing,” says Enactus Canada programs manager, Charlson Reyes, adding students can range from fields in business to trades and skills. “They take what they learn from the classroom and they apply it worldwide in real life situations.”
For Enactus Saint Mary’s students, one of their most successful endeavours has been the Square Roots program — a food bundle offering that pairs local farmers with communities in need to ensure produce is not wasted and residents can afford to eat nutritious food.
“What they have done is (coordinate) with the farmer and basically act as a middle man (to) help transfer imperfect-looking food to community managers so they can sell these goods or even give out free bundles to people in need in those areas,” explains Reyes.
Started in 2016, the Square Roots program has proven very successful and even won the Enactus Saint Mary’s group an award. However, the program’s pertinence suddenly became even more obvious over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When they saw the pandemic hit everyone in the community, the members really kick-started and added new locations,” says Reyes, noting free vegetable bundles began being distributed all across HRM and further afield to needy communities. “I believe they have added two or three more locations across Nova Scotia.”
Pairing up with local community managers, the Square Roots program offers individuals affordable bundles of imperfect food that may not be appetizing to grocery chains but are still perfectly edible.
“If the individual said they can only pay this much or I cannot pay at all, they actually give it out for free,” adds Reyes. “And the community managers are usually retirees and people who just want to help out the community itself — they are not getting paid for it or anything like that.”
With programs like Square Roots, the Enactus Saint Mary’s crew advanced to the final rounds of the Enactus National Competition, where student teams from all across Canada pitch their projects to business leaders.
This year’s winner was Okanagan College, who will now represent Canada at the World Cup event later in October — but Saint Mary’s University was not far behind.
“I love working with students because I myself was actually one of those students,” says Reyes, who went through the Enactus program before eventually becoming the organization’s programs manager.
While he notes the Enactus program is an excellent way for students to connect and learn how to “utilize the power of conscious capitalism for positive change”, he says at the grass-roots level, it is essentially about people helping people.
“Most of these students are very passionate about helping other communities,” adds Reyes. “Passion is the biggest thing when it comes to Enactus because that’s exactly where you gather all your energy to keep going forward and keep helping people.”