March 8, 2018
Finding a job can be an extremely difficult and time-consuming task. It can be especially stressful for adults with disabilities, low literacy skills, or no high school diploma. For these individuals, finding employment can be very challenging, and can result in chronic unemployment and financial instability.
But thanks to a new social enterprise funded in part by the Ottawa Community Foundation (OCF), many vulnerable adults are able to gain the skills they need to enter the workforce. The program is called EAT MORE SOUP! and it is providing barrier-free employment training through mentorship and real-life experience. Over the 12-week program, interns work alongside a chef from Monday to Thursday, where they learn how to make delicious soups like spiced carrot, squash, and minestrone, which are then sold as part of the social enterprise.
EAT MORE SOUP! is an initiative of Alternative Learning Styles and Outlook (ALSO), an organization that the OCF is proud to have funded for more than 15 years. ALSO is an adult and family literacy centre that has been serving the Ottawa community for over 35 years.
In 2017, ALSO received a grant from the OCF for just over $15,000 to help launch EAT MORE SOUP! and hire a part-time chef. Later, they secured additional funding that allowed them to transitions to a full-time chef as well as cover the costs of the program for the first year.
“Our success would definitely not have been possible without the [OCF] grant,” explains Kim Oastler, Executive Director of EAT MORE SOUP!
With the funding in place, EAT MORE SOUP! was then able to leverage additional resources from the Centre for Social Enterprise Development (CSED). “My background is in not-for-profit so the food industry has been a steep learning curve,” says Kim. “Being a part of the CSED food Accelerator Program has been so helpful for me, from writing a business plan, to connecting me with the right people, and answering my questions. They have been so supportive.”
Since its launch in July 2017, the program has seen all interns graduate and receive job offers. Yoonis Guleed, a graduate of the program, recently accepted an offer to work at the Farm Boy warehouse. He believes the link to local employers is what sets this program apart from others.
“This program helps you find a job. There are so many programs that you can take and all you get is a certificate, this one actually helps you find a job after,” explains Yoonis.
Through their employment partnerships with organizations such as Farm Boy and Starbucks, EAT MORE SOUP! is able to provide interview training through mock interview sessions with human resource professionals. During these sessions, the interns are able to get live feedback and coaching which allows the interns to build confidence and prepares them for the real world. Upon completion of the program, the interns are guaranteed an interview with at least one employer partner.
The interns are also given the opportunity to give back to the community through BIG COOK Tuesdays. This partnership with the Boys and Girls Club allows the interns to mentor children and youth as well as teach them how to cook through the skills they have developed in the EAT MORE SOUP! kitchen. The children and youth learn valuable techniques on how to cook on a fixed income and are able to take the meals home to share with their families.
EAT MORE SOUP! now has five vegan and two vegetarian soups, and their products can be found in 13 stores across the city. For more information on where you can purchase these products visit http://www.eatmoresoup.org/.