As restaurants face a hiring crunch, Little Sprouts Cafe may have the answer
Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Good Morning!
Today’s story is technically about how a "social enterprise" accommodates workers with disabilities. But it’s really more about how workplaces can solve or avert challenges just by listening to their employees. Whether we live with a disability or not, most of us have seen similar situations in our own lives, where a problem festers because the people in charge don’t know it even exists. That, in a way, is the purpose of journalism: you need to know about a problem to fix it. So we need to keep hearing from you, particularly those of you who live with disabilities: tell us about your lives and what can be done to improve them for the better. Drop me a line.
—Tyler Olsen, managing editor
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Darlene, one of 11 workers at Little Sprout Café, says her job "feels like a bunch of people getting together to cook." 📸  Communitas Supportive Care Society
Can better workplaces make better food?

As restaurants reopen their dining rooms, capable and reliable staff will be in high demand. Restaurateurs are often in particular need of employees happy to work flexible, part-time shifts built around busy times. But workers who only work a handful of hours each week are naturally going to feel less connected to that job, and that can make it a challenge to keep them serving customers and making food.

A café in Abbotsford may have an answer to that challenge. Little Sprout Café is a new social enterprise launched by Communitas Supportive Care Society that aims to both provide locals with tasty and healthy meals full of "microgreens" while hiring, training, and employing people with disabilities.

The goal is to help connect people with disabilities with an entrance into the workforce. It has done that already: of the café’s 11 employees, 8 live with disabilities, and chef and manager Jordan Rempel says accommodating people in an inclusive workplace has resulted in a fun work and learning environment. But he says there are also lessons to be learned for other businesses trying to find dedicated workers.

"I’m very new to working with people living with disabilities… But for me, I found just having an open mind—a lot of times our mindset, we can have a preconceived notion and put limits on people. So part of the mission with Communitas and part of our philosophy is breaking those down and welcoming everybody in and taking them as individuals. I think our model here has had success in the kitchen and I think people can learn from that."

The members of Rempel’s team have a range of disabilities, including some that may not be readily apparent to outside observers, but which can make navigating a busy workplace stressful or traumatic. But those difficulties are not inevitable.

"The heart of working with my team, I’ve learned, is just having good communication, asking good questions, asking pointed questions about, how can I support you? Encouraging staff to communicate and let me know their boundaries, maybe their limitations," he said. Communication requires both time and a concerted effort, but pays off by creating a workplace that is positive, caring, and happy. That’s important in order for Communitas to achieve its goal. But it also helps make the business run efficiently, and the food taste better, Rempel said.

"It’s been really helpful to have time to ask people to share what they need to be successful at work. And what I’ve seen from that is our employee morale is super-high; the productivity, the creativity, the positivity is super-high. So ultimately, we’re working in a kitchen that’s functioning well, producing quality goods, and it’s really enjoyable to come in. Our staff are really excited to come into work, so the by-product of us taking some extra care on providing support and communication is that we have a really positive workplace that’s very efficient and flourishing.

"I think that it’s a good model," Rempel said.

He has also seen his workers excel, he said. He cited an employee with anxiety who had found a past kitchen experience harmful, but who has been able to thrive in a busy kitchen just because of the knowledge that she has help close by, if she needs it.

"In the rush, she has multiple orders, and she’s multitasking, working super hard and having success on the line."

Many of the employees are part-timers who prefer working relatively short shifts. And those are exactly the type of restaurant workers who are particularly hard to find in a food-service environment.

"There is a huge challenge in most workplaces to find good casual staff that work smaller-hour shifts and smaller numbers of days… and there is a high turnover in that employment," Rempel said. "A lot of those people get that job and it’s not very important to them. They work 4 hours, they make $60 or $70 in a week. If something else comes up, it’s not a big commitment for them.

"But a unique advantage of a person who identifies as living with a disability is often that person is looking for just 1 or 2 shifts a week, 1 or 2 shorter shifts, and they really want to belong to that workplace. And they have such a high value in their life from gaining employment, which I’ve been told and which I’ve seen—that they uniquely are reliable, passionate about their work, enthusiastic to come in."

"I think employers really need to know that if they’re looking for some smaller shifts or they’re having turnover troubles, if they uniquely hire people living with a disability, there are so many fruitful benefits from that."

Little Sprout Café is located at 102-2776 West Bourquin St. in Abbotsford.

— By Tyler Olsen
Need to Know
🖌 One mural has disappeared in Langley, but 4 more will soon go up. [Langley Advance Times]

🚨 A 50-year-old man was shot in Aldergrove and found in a ditch [Global]

🚓 Two people were stabbed in Chilliwack in unprovoked incidents. One victim was 80 years old. [Chilliwack Progress]

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A boardwalk will be built along the Hope River Slough in central Chilliwack. 📸 City of Chilliwack
The Agenda
A new trail will be coming to the banks of a central Chilliwack waterway. The city is working to develop a riverside trail and boardwalk along the Hope River Slough that will follow its north side between Young Road and Menzies Street. The project, which is set for construction in 2022, will have a gravel trail running east from Young Road. Midway through, the trail will turn into a boardwalk that will end at Menzies Street. The project will also include habitat improvements to the waterway, as well as work to offset any impacts from construction. The city is currently in the process of getting approvals from the federal and provincial governments, as the slough is home to several species at risk, including the Salish Sucker.

Hot off the opening of Chilliwack’s wildly popular—but also troubled—new pump track, Mission will soon be building such a facility for itself. Mission’s track will be smaller, with a budget less than a half of the Chilliwack track. Council has now approved awarding the $256,627 contract to Canadian Ramp Company, a different company than the one that built the Chilliwack site. Chilliwack’s track has been wildly popular, but also beset with complaints of misbehaving teens. The troubles have led the city to fence the track and hire security guards.

The Floor is Yours: What kind of new park facilities would you like to see in your community?
COVID latest
In the next week, BC officials will decide whether to proceed with the second stage of the province’s re-opening plans. Right now, so far, BC is meeting the benchmarks officials have established, with declining hospitalizations and case numbers and more than 70% of residents immunized. [BCCDC COVID data]

Fraser Health
  • New cases: 285 Fri-Sun / 101 average (down 12% from last week)
  • No active outbreaks at hospitals / 3 active outbreaks in long-term care
  • School exposures: Abbotsford: 7 / Chilliwack: 3 / Langley: 4 / Mission: 3 / Fraser Cascade: 0
  • No new workplace closures
  • New cases: 482 Fri-Sun / 129 average (down 36% from last week)
  • 199 hospitalizations (down 20% from last week)
  • 12 new deaths / 1,722 total
This photo was recently donated to the Langley Centennial Museum, which is trying to track down the names of the kids. 📸 Langley Centennial Museum/Facebook
Around Town
📷 Langley’s Centennial Museum is looking for people to help identify the kids in the above photo of the Sperling Church Sunday School class from 1968 or 1969.

🥽 The District of Kent has released its summer leisure guide, outlining programs available at the Community Recreation and Cultural Centre and the Ferny Coombe Pool

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