If you live in the Ottawa area you’ve likely heard about, seen or tasted the soup from EAT MORE SOUP! But did you know that it’s a local social enterprise that only started in 2017? In its few short years EAT MORE SOUP! has gone from a monthly program, to a weekly program to a thriving social enterprise whose product can be found in grocery stores and retailers, university coffee shops and hospital cafeterias around town. CSED recently sat down with enterprise manager Kim Oastler who talked about the mission of the social enterprise, its employment training opportunities, the challenges the EAT MORE SOUP! team face and what makes her most proud. We share the interview here.
EAT MORE SOUP! is a social enterprise created by AlSO, a non-profit literacy organization servicing adults and families in Ottawa for over 35 years. The purpose behind EAT MORE SOUP! goes far beyond simply making and eating soup, EAT MORE SOUP! provides employment training opportunities to vulnerable adults in our community. Interns use this experience as a training opportunity to link to real employment.
How does the program work?
Soup maker interns volunteer with us for 10 hours a week over a 12 week internship. During this time they learn the ins and outs of vegetarian/vegan soup making and soup production for commercial sale. Each intern has the opportunity to participate in 2 practice job interviews to prepare them for employment. There are opportunities for mentorship with our Souper Wednesday and Big Cook programs that run alongside the EAT MORE SOUP! internship.
What was the inspiration behind EAT MORE SOUP!
A number of years ago we noticed that many of the adult literacy students at ALSO were coming into class hungry. A couple of the ALSO teachers offered a few one-off cooking classes. The students wanted more so we got some funding and started a program called Dinner on a Dime. We offered monthly cooking workshops teaching our students how to cook healthy dinners on a very low budget. This was so successful that the students asked if we could do something weekly. We came up with a program called Souper Wednesday. Each Wednesday we would make vegetarian/vegan soup with the ALSO students and then offer it to the folks in the Heartwood House community. We made the soup and bread weekly for $1.00 per serving on a break even budget. In our second year of offering Souper Wednesday some of the ALSO students asked if they could use the skills they were learning in the kitchen to help them get a job. Folks in the Heartwood House community were asking to buy more of the soup to take home. We got to work thinking about how to respond to these needs and came up with the idea for EAT MORE SOUP!
What challenges do you face day-to-day?
Balancing the very real need for increased production and sales with the high level of support we want to provide to our interns and the learning curve in terms of reaching out to new customers and scaling the business in order to move towards sustainability.
What inspires you to keep going?
Shifting people’s relationships with food, seeing how the program builds confidence, purpose and hope for our participants and the community inspire us to do the work we do.
Any words of advice?
Don’t chase the money. Do what you do and do it really well.
Finally, when we asked what makes her most proud?
Kim simply said “All of it!”. Well said Kim and well done!