Tokens are the solution to helping each other

Helping each other one token at a time

Tokens that say Pay it Froward Redeem at Gabriels Cafe, Nanaimo, BC.  The tokens are say on the front good for one bowl of soup $5.50 value. No cash value.

You might be asking yourself

“What are tokens?'“

Tokens can be any shape or size that is made from a variety of materials. The token can have any meaning that you want but the more universal the meaning, the more people understand it and use it freely. Tokens can be used as currency for a specific thing. A business or company can have tokens made to offer a service, food, clothing or any need out there. For example, a token can be shaped like a large coin made out of aluminum and have writing on it telling the value of the token.

Tokens for Gabriels cafe in Nanaimo, BC.  Good for one bowl of soup

“How can tokens be the solution to helping each other?”

It is powered by the people for the people and it is self sustaining.

  1. A company can buy tokens for their services or business (initial costs) or the tokens can be fundraised or gifted.

  2. People can purchase the tokens and give the tokens to those in need as they see fit.

  3. The people in need can redeem the tokens at their leisure.

  4. When redeemed the company isn’t out of pocket for the expenses and the tokens can be reused to be purchased again.

Sounds simple doesn’t it? The hardest part is getting started. Lots of people will think it is a good idea but very few people will take action and put it into place. People will follow once it is in place but for most people starting something new is too much for them or seems scary.

“Who would use the tokens?”

Anyone! They can be used by students who might need meals, someone who helped you out to say thank you too, a person in need, giving it as a gift, or anything you can set your mind too. The beauty of the tokens is that once it is given it is up to the person to use it on their own time.

What type of companies or businesses would use the tokens and what would they offer?

All kinds of companies and businesses can use tokens

  • Restaurants, grocery stores can offer tokens for food or groceries.

  • Services business can offer services such as massage, delivery services, house cleaning, computer services, yoga, etc..

It is all up to the imagination to where tokens can be used for and with.

Where does your imagination take you?

How to do go about getting tokens made?

Tokens can be made from any material possible. Type in a simple search of: tokens, drink tokens, customized tokens, or custom poker chips. There are several online companies that make tokens or try to find a local company that fits with your values.


My friend, Cheryl Price, and I were thinking of ways to help out the community of Nanaimo, B.C. I saw a program in Vancouver, at Save On Meats that offers tokens that can be purchased at the butcher shop that has a side window to serve sandwiches that could be exchanged for the tokens. We decided to use this model and implement it in our community.

Cheryl’s farm sells vegetables to a local restaurant, Gabriel’s Cafe, and she asked them if they were interested in doing a token program at their restaurant. Gabriel’s was trilled to be apart of the movement!

We also choose Gabriel’s cafe because we were thinking of a place where people could sit down and get their food served to them. Eating out can be an everyday occurrence for some people but for others it doesn’t happen very often. It was important to us that the tokens would bring people together to be treated by being served food and when they wanted to eat.

Gabriel’s Cafe in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island soup token program.

Gabriel’s Cafe in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island soup token program.

Cheryl, I and the manager at Gabriel’s cafe thought of what food they could offer on the tokens and a bowl of soup was decided upon. Cheryl and I ordered the tokens and gifted them to the cafe.

We contacted the local paper who wrote a story about the tokens. Through social media it got shared far and wide. It was overwhelming how much feedback that we got and how other business wanted to be apart of a token project. BuzzFeed later added it to their 15 Coffee Shops That Are Going To Make You Ask, “Why Doesn’t EVERY Coffee Shop Have That?!”in 2018.

The feedback wasn’t all positive and people become fearful of the unknown. Questions like “who will be using the tokens” to “what if the place gets to busy now with people just using the tokens that I can’t eat there anymore” and “I don’t want to eat in the same place as people who use the tokens". It was educational and informative to see where the minds of people would go to.

We had a lot of businesses contact us about doing a program within their business. Cheryl and I weren’t set up for this. The token buying was supposed to be a one time gift to one business. Since Gabriel’s cafe sold the tokens and reused them it was self sustaining and didn’t need to involve us in the long run. We did try to add two other businesses but one of them sold their shop soon after.

The other businesses that contacted us were told of the process of the tokens and how they could incorporate it within their business but it wouldn’t be something that we could do within their business. The purchasing of the tokens were supposed to be a one time deal as a gift to help out the community.

The tokens are still being used at Gabriel’s cafe. Word of mouth has kept the token purchasing alive and they have expanded their business to serve more people.

Where do I go from here?

  1. Do you have a product or service that you can use tokens with?

    1. Yes, I know how I want to use the tokens.

      Great, go onto the next question.

    2. No. I don’t know how I can help.

      Where do your interests go to when helping others? Do you have an injustice that you feel you can contribute too? Find your cause to push you forward to getting it started.

    3. No. But I know of a cause I want to focus on with these tokens.

      Perfect! Now see where tokens might fit into a need in the community. Start brainstorming different ideas and ways that the tokens can be used.

  2. How are you going to pay for the tokens?

    1. Pay it out of my own pocket

      It is going to a good cause and in the long run it will be an investment or a gift.

    2. Fundraising the money

      People want to help other people. Fundraising the money, once you know how the tokens will be used for, the message will spread far and wide once the word is out in the community.

    3. Apply for a grant

      Some private companies offer grant programs to help out the community. Propose the token project and using the funds is another way that the community helps the community out. Check out government websites as they are always looking for innovated ways to put their city on the map.

  3. Do you need any addition people to communicate with to make your cause happen?

    1. No, the tokens will be distributed by my company.

      Perfect! Be the force behind creating change as you lead by example.

    2. Yes, I have already communicated with them.

      Keep up the good relationship between you and the company!

    3. Yes, I still need to team up with a company.

      Finding the right company is critical. Companies will be resistant to the tokens at first because of the mindset of the clientele. Keep searching for the company that is excited to come on board and start creating change.

  4. Do you know your dollar amount in exchange for the product or service for the token? Keep in mind the long term nature of the token and the cost down the road of the product or service.

    1. Yes, I have the dollar amount in exchange for the token.

      Write down the $ amount and factor in how long you predict the tokens will last. Does the dollar amount still reflect the price of the product in X many of years?

    2. No, I am still communicating with the company.

      Keep an open communication. Start brainstorming what is going to work for your need and the company. Also think about the cost and value of the person giving a token to another person. The value has be worth it and the cost needs to be affordable.

    3. No, I don’t know where to start.

      Look at the products or services of the company and find one “thing” that can benefit the community. Start communicating with the company to see their input as they will know their customers best. Think about: how much it costs for the company, how much would an average person spend on another person to give it as a gift, and how important is the cause.

  5. Do you know what you would put on the tokens? ex. website, logo, value $ amount, no cash value, company name, company address, how to redeem it, what it is used for…

    1. Yes, I have the design already.

      Asking 2 people who haven’t heard of the tokens project to look at the designs will allow clarity to make sure the message is clear.

    2. No, this is something I still need to work on.

      Look at other tokens and make a list of the things you like and dislike about the tokens. Start sketching out some designs or write out the content.

    3. No, I am not technology savvy enough to design.

      No need to be tech savvy as there are enough companies that will create the design of the token with just the info provided. They will email a sample copy of the token before they are made to make any changes. Focus on the content to put on the token.

  6. Where are you taking your token project?

    1. One off project

      One time projects are wonderful because it allows freedom to move to other projects. Since this project is going to be self sustaining there is no need to upkeep on the project. Use free sites for the token content and social media. Questions will be asked about the project but offering to build up a community isn’t your focus with this project.

    2. On-going venture

      If you plan to continue with the tokens think about a website and free social media publicity. The public will ask questions and want to learn more about it. Make sure there is a space so the questions can be answered in public so it doesn’t need to be continuously repeated. Creating a space where the public can go and learn more information about the project and future projects you are doing will help establish rapport. Think about how other companies can get involved in it and where the funds are going to come from for the tokens.

    3. I want to create a job out of this

      Can you create a job out of token ventures? Why not?

      Set up a business and access grants to start gathering more businesses onto tokens

      Set up a non profit organization and access non profit grants and start fundraising for the tokens.

      Start a website with content on how people can help and get involved.

      Creating your own job with your passion will be the hardest but most rewarding thing!

  7. The tokens are being made, now what?

    1. Crafting your story

      Storytelling is very important as it allows the audience to connect with the meaning of the cause. It is important to create a story before the tokens launch to have time to think about your journey.

      What is your backstory before you started doing the token project?

      Why is the token project important to you?

      How did you find the company to work with and why is this company important to the token project?

      Has there been any hardship along the way with the process?

      How did you overcome it?

    2. Taking it to the next phase

      Depending on where you are planning to take the token project- one time, ongoing or creating a business with it. It is time to start creating content so that when the tokens arrive you can implement the plan.

    3. Inquisitive questions

      Being surrounding by people with the same beliefs will cause tunnel vision. If you want to make the tokens an ongoing venture or a business then see out of the tunnel to be prepare instead of reactive. Some people wouldn’t understand the token process and need more information than others. There is resistance with the belief that people shouldn’t help others as it is the governments responsibility. Others will argue for the sake of argument to stir the pot. Charities and organizations that help others get plenty of debate on what should or shouldn’t be done for other people. There are forums of debates and comments to search for to be able to craft a well throughout response.

      Fear of the unknown is in everyone of us but it presents itself in different areas. For some, tokens are too far out of the box and even through we are not here to appeal to everyone, we can still offer a different viewpoint.

    4. Social media

      What form(s) of social media will you be using?

      How often will you be posting?

      What content are you going to sharing?

      Are you going to be using your personal account or create a business account?

      Are you creating a unique hashtag for others to follow the jouney?

    5. Paper media

      Paper media is still alive and people still read it (as it can go online)

      Are you going to put up signs in the space where they are selling the tokens? Get the signs laminated with the information for people to learn about it as they walk through the front door.

      For local news it is still regarded as special to get into the local newspaper and the local paper is looking for a story!

      Gather the email addresses for the local news and radio

      Craft an press release

      Put in your story of a problem you are going to be solving with the tokens.

      If you have any statistics or facts that you can site in the release with the links the better as the newspaper can do their own digging into the information provided.

    **** scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the example that we sent out.

  8. Tokens have arrived! What do I do first?

    1. Take pictures of the tokens

      This will probably be the only time that you will have that many tokens in your possession unless you own the company. Take as many pictures as possible and with different backdrops.

    2. Give the tokens to the company

      Set up a date to give the tokens to the company.

      Two options
      a. Give the tokens to the company and let a couple days go by before you send a press release. The press can come another day to take photos and get feedback from the customers who have used them. This lets the company set up the token system on their cash register as there will be an imbalance on their input and outputs.

      b. Set up a press release of a date you are going to give the company the tokens to so the press can come for the handover. Make sure the company has advance notice so they can set up their cash register for the tokens.

    3. Take pictures with people and the tokens

      Take pictures with the company and with people buying the tokens. It is a day to celebrate and it will only happen once on that one day. Capture the moment!

    4. Social media share

      Share it far and wide with as many people as possible. Get people who have purchased the tokens to do a social media share. People will get excited about it because it makes them feel good. Keep up with the momentum.

    5. Paper media blast

      Put up your signs!

      Send your press release if you haven’t done it already. Get the ball rolling as it will start to snowball once it gets going.

Well that was information overload! It seems like a lot of information all at once but it is simpler than you think. Once it gets rolling it will take a life on its own.

In the first couple of months after the tokens were launched more than half of the tokens were sold (we gave them 500 tokens) because the community believed in the cause. Companies were buying tokens by the handful so they could give it out to people when they felt the need. The tokens were being given to students so they could go downtown and enjoy food with their friends, single parents going through hard times and people who were sleeping down the street from the cafe. People were being advocates for the tokens and telling others about it.

Share your story with us about your token project


if you have questions along your token journey!

#lohascanada or email us in the contact us page!

Press Release

Title: Being the change in the community with food tokens


Cheryl Prince and Liz Kawahara

Nanaimo, BC

Cheryl - Phone number

Liz - Phone number


Email address

With the holidays behind us the need doesn't stop to support the community and food tokens are a great step getting there.

Giving a token that can be redeemed at Gabriel's Cafe for a warm nutritious bowl of soup allows everyone to eat together regardless of any financial situations.

The force behind the token project started to take shape around Christmas 2015, sitting around the kitchen table thinking of how to give back to the community.   Nutrition is a very important aspect in Cheryl Prince's life who is a health couch, RHN and co-owner of Prince acres in Lantzville and Liz Kawahara who is student at Vancouver Island University with a focus on farming and sustainability. 

They wanted to find a way for students, family members, children and buskers to share healthy food together. Cheryl and Liz liked the initiative used by Save On Meats in Vancouver as a way for the public to buy tokens to give to their community and have begun this in Nanaimo. The tokens were made and gifted to Gabriel's cafe.  Members of the public can buy a token at Gabriel's Cafe for a nutritious bowl of soup for $5.50 and can give these tokens to community members to redeem at a later date. They hope to be able to work with other local businesses in creating healthy food options to give out as tokens.  

Picture- Liz, Cheryl, Gemma(from Gabriels Cafe)