London, Ont., chocolatier’s initiative feeding low-income families during COVID-19 pandemic

Marc Forrat has launched an initiative called Forrat's Feeds Families, where he produces chocolates, sells them, and uses the money to make food kits for low-income Londoners. . Forrat's Chocolates

A local chocolatier is using his big heart and bold ideas to go after world hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic, starting with London, Ont.

Marc Forrat is the owner and chocolatier of Forrat’s Chocolates.

He recently launched an initiative called Forrat’s Feeds Families, where he makes chocolates, sells them, and uses the money to put together food kits for low-income Londoners.

Owner of Forrat’s Chocolates, Marc Forrat, is giving back to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Forrat's Chocolates

Forrat told Devon Peacock on 980 CFPL’s Morning Show Friday this is another one of his “outside the box ideas.”

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“About two and a half months ago when the COVID-19 (pandemic) happened, I told my wife I wanted to do something to help … and I called my suppliers, and it started from there.”

Forrat says he contacted Callebaut, a chocolate company, where he buys chocolate for his shops.

READ MORE: Kindness, community spirit on full display in London, Ont. region

He explained he planned to donate chocolate to local nurses, front-line workers, and first responders, and the company agreed to donate some chocolates.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t work out … because (hospitals) felt it wasn’t the right time to bring things from the outside to hospitals … so I just kept thinking, what am I going to do with the chocolates that (were) donated from my supplier?”

And that’s where the idea of “raspberry velvets” for a good cause came from.

Forrat’s raspberry velvet chocolates are sold for $4 for two pieces. The money goes directly into making food kits for families in need in London. Forrat's Chocolates

“Now, we’re manufacturing 40,000 raspberry velvets that will be made with a new type of chocolate (called) ruby chocolate, (that) is made from a new cocoa bean that was discovered in Brazil about 10 years ago,” Forrat explains.

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“It’s a beautiful chocolate that has a hint of fruitiness to it.”

Forrat says Loblaws, a supermarket chain, donated store space for Forrat’s raspberry velvets and are now selling them at Real Canadian Superstores in London.

“The amazing thing is that this idea just came from my head around two months ago. … I’m looking at my screen right now, and we have 30 sales already — we can almost buy food for 10 families already, and we just launched (Thursday).”

Each food kit will include everything in this photo, according to Forrat.
Each food kit will include everything in this photo, according to Forrat. Forrat's Chocolates

As of Friday, Forrat says he’s sold enough raspberry velvet chocolates to make 10 family kits.

“Those kits should be enough for about a month of non-perishable food items. … It’s pretty crazy.”

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The kits are filled with nutritious and non-perishable food items, such as “… cereals, crackers, brown beans, applesauce, peanut butter, macaroni noodles, spaghetti noodles, pasta, tuna, jam, basmati rice, black beans, chickpeas… and quinoa as well,” Forrat explains.

“(There is) enough in there to hopefully last a month for a large family of four, but we’re not going to discriminate (when) giving (kits) away — it could be a single mom with two kids, and that will last her a lot longer.”

The chocolatier says he’s also in communication with different charities to see where the food is going to go and figure out the most reasonable food distribution method.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Londoners giving back to front-line workers and those in need of masks, scrub caps

Forrat says his passion for giving back to the community was instilled in him by his mother.

“When we were young, we were not poor by any means, but (my mom and I) had a tough time sometimes in our lives, and we decided that any time we would be able to help other people, we would.

“There was some violence in my family, (and) my family lost everything a couple of times. … This has always been a dream of mine to do something for the less fortunate.”

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Forrat was born in Brazil in the 1970s and spent a few years in France to learn the fundamentals of chocolate-making. He moved to Canada in 1996 with his now-wife, Elia.

The two have a daughter together and want her to understand the importance of supporting one another, especially during tough times.

“You always have to look at your past experiences, and take them and turn them into (something) positive.

“We all say, ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ I try to do lemonade, lemon bread, lemon crepes, lemon tarts, lemon cheesecakes, whatever I can get my hands on,” Forrat chuckled.

“I’ve always said I’ve learned everything from tears and nothing from smiles.”

Volunteers Rita Parent, David Santos and Antonio Santos packaging raspberry velvet chocolates.
Volunteers Rita Parent, David Santos and Antonio Santos packaging raspberry velvet chocolates. Forrat's Chocolates

Forrat says his goal of tackling world hungry by starting with London is only a very small step, but it’s a step in the right direction.

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“There are a lot of people suffering out there. … If we were all eating every day, and we were all healthy — all seven billion of us — then life would be fun every day, but it’s not like that … so we have to try to help as many people as we can.”

For his raspberry velvet chocolate initiative, Forrat has a group of volunteers by his side helping out, along with financial support from business sponsors and a few families who have donated money.

“We have so many people and small companies that donated even a small amount of money – even $100, even less – it’s amazing to see the [donations] coming in.”

“It’s really humbling… it really brings a tear to my eye.”

Click to play video: 'Shelter’s food program saved by donations' Shelter’s food program saved by donations
Shelter’s food program saved by donations – Apr 6, 2020

Forrat says he’s hoping to do more, adding this initiative is just the beginning. He is currently working on creating the Forrat’s Family Foundation, with a goal of feeding children breakfast.

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“Hopefully this will be the start of something amazing,” Forrat said.

Raspberry velvet chocolates in support of food kits for low-income families can be purchased here.

There is also the option to purchase a chocolate for a front-line worker.

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