The simplest things sometimes have the most impact. Listening offers connection. Making soup offers the satisfaction of earning an income.
So it is with The Raw Carrot, a Waterloo Region-based social enterprise that opens doors – church kitchen doors, actually – to adults who face barriers to employment.
“The name, The Raw Carrot, is something our staff picked. We may be raw and there’s more going on under the surface,” said Elena Haskell, The Raw Carrot’s community engagement manager.
Haskell, left, outlines what’s on sale, with the help of Penny Barker, a member of St. Andrew’s Women’s Missionary Society.
In Barrie this week as the featured speaker at St. Andrew’s Mission Awareness Sunday, Haskell brought a range of soups – from the classic carrot (which features the warmth of curry) to navy beans and kale to spicy-ish sausage and cabbage. The soups are made from hand-chopped, Ontario-sourced ingredients, and helps small farmers and other suppliers.
But even more importantly, Haskell outlined the impact the soup-making venture has for its 32 permanent part-time staff. She noted that staff members may have unseen disabilities – be they intellectual, social or struggles with mental health such as depression and anxiety.
Relying on ODSP, they can find it hard to make ends meet, not to mention face discouragement as they compete in the job market. The Raw Carrot not only gives them a job, but builds skills and builds connections.
“Folks cannot make ends meet on the government handout,” Haskell added, noting ODSP support tops out at approximately $1,300/month, which doesn’t go far with rising rent and grocery costs.
The social enterprise began in Paris Presbyterian Church, where the minister’s wife saw a need and a way to offer a hand up, and has expanded to three other sites.
“We are mission-focused and Jesus-centred. Staff don’t have to be Christian, but they have to accept (we practise) our faith,” Haskell added.
“It’s a great way to be mission-oriented. It is a sustainable solution. We are trying to make sustainable change.”
WIth increasing demand for their hand-crafted soups, staff have seen their wages and their hours grow over the past year.
They’ve seen their quality of life rise as well, as they develop skills and connections, as they chop vegetables and create hand-crafted soups.
This year’s sales projected to exceed $200,000, with stock being sold primarily at farmers’ markets. The Raw Carrot also offers a Soup Club, as well as some other specialty, seasonal products.
The Raw Carrot’s support system also includes 67 volunteers and a handful of paid staff who ensure compliance with food regulations, develop new products and varieties, and build partnerships with service clubs and like-minded community organizations. The headquarters staff also support marketing, purchasing supplies and equipment as needed, and apply for grants.
But what truly matters is the life-changing impact for its staff. One cook, Terry, was diagnosed with depression and was suicidal. He was finally diagnosed as being bi-polar. With the support and encouragement of the community he’s built, he has changed his thinking patterns. “He’s continued to thrive and build his confidence,” said Haskell.
Explore what The Raw Carrot has to offer at http://therawcarrot.com