Stretching food dollars and helping people toward meaningful employment

Written by: Paul Seale, Community Relations & Assistant Store Manager, Old East Village Grocer 

At the Old East Village Grocer, we understand how important it is to make every dollar count. We choose and buy our food very carefully, and we know that our customers do, too. Especially during the holiday season when there are so many demands on our wallets. We invite Londoners this year to think about giving the gift of food and supporting a local effort to help others lift themselves up.

The Old East Village Grocer is a social enterprise, owned and operated by ATN Access for Persons with Disabilities. We’re located in a converted factory at 630 Dundas Street and use the store as a live classroom to teach real-life job skills to people facing barriers to meaningful employment. We take note of people’s challenges, but we focus on their strengths. We help them build the confidence to try things they’ve never done. We offer preparatory programs at ATN but, at the store, we move at the right speed for every individual. Many of our own employees are people who began as clients of ATN. It’s not a requirement, but it does mean that the people who work here understand the obstacles our clients face. And they recognize the value of overcoming those challenges in a work environment.

And it works. Every day, people who struggled in school because of learning disabilities now do administrative work. People who came to us timid are confident and engaging individuals offering exceptional customer service. That’s the social part of social enterprise. And every penny earned here helps the store to fund that mission. That’s the enterprise part.

We find our customers are becoming more and more intentional about their purchases. They really care about where their food comes from, what’s in it, and also whom they are supporting with their purchases. We’re offering more and more vegetarian products, gluten-free products, and non-GMO products and we label them to make them easy to find. And many of our customers come from outside the neighbourhood because they know that their purchases are helping Londoners to succeed.

When you choose to shop at a social enterprise, like the Old East Village Grocer, you’re not just supporting a local business. You’re also supporting a mission to build and maintain meaningful relationships that help vulnerable community members build skills and secure stable employment. And that really is a gift.

When you’re shopping or entertaining this Christmas, consider giving the gift of food. We offer gift certificates in denominations of $5, $10, or $20. Come to our food drive kick-off December 1st with CBC London. Or let us cater your office party or social occasion. We do that, too. Every order turns into an opportunity to learn and gives someone a hand up toward a better life. For that gift, we thank you.

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