From DC to TO: Social Enterprises in Your City

DC Central Kitchen: A model social enterprise

By now the story of DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) is well known (see our story here). A hugely successful social enterprise in the States, DCCK and its programs recycle over 3,000 pounds of surplus food a day into over 4,500 meals that are distributed throughout the city to shelters, transitional homes and drug/alcohol rehabilitation centres. And the organization creates these meals through job training programs for poor, formally homeless adults and felons.

Great for Washington, DC, but what about here at home?

In a recent article, the founder Robert Egger (who spoke at last year’s Net Change Week) describes how he has always faced skepticism about the DCCK model: skepticism around traditional notions of charity and whether businesses would donate food “waste”; skepticism around the viability of a hybrid organization, one that “occupies the space between .org and .com”. But now, after years of turning out healthy, delicious meals and graduating thousands of new food industry professionals, people are ready to take note.

With all this attention, it’s no wonder that DCCK is becoming a household name social enterprise. So this got me thinking, what about all the social enterprises working across the country, right here in our own backyard? I’m a Torontonian, so here are a few ventures working in a similar way in my city:

St. John’s Bakery is a social venture that creates organic, artisan French breads and sweets, baked by individuals facing marginalization – whether they’re refugees, addicts or single parents, the St. John’s Mission enterprise employs those it also serves.

Turnaround Couriers is a for-profit business that recruits at-risk youth to work as bicycle couriers and in their office, providing job-ready young people the opportunity to gain experience, confidence and the financial means they need.

Inspirations Studios provides under-housed and homeless women an opportunity to participate in meaningful economic activity by providing direct market access for women working with handmade crafts.

You can find lots of others in our Social Venture Registry.

Got a favourite social enterprise you frequent, either here in Toronto or your hometown? Let me know, I’m always interested in finding out about new ways to do good, better.