This summer I was lucky enough to road trip solo across the ten provinces of Canada over a span of six weeks. Having lived in Canada most of my life this is the first time I’ve seen the vast prairies and its incredible sunsets, the majestic mountains of the Canadian Rockies and the beauty of the Maritimes. One thing that I enjoy doing is checking out the local food scene and of course to see what each city is up to in social enterprises, especially those that employ persons with disabilities. Here are twenty-six that operate across Canada, some that I had the chance to visit and you should too!
Based in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Inclusion Cafe will cater your event with tasty coconut lentil curry to their gluten-free banana bread macaroons and their already famous zucchini parmesan quiche, they offer a range of sweet and savoury eatables that are handmade, decadent, healthy and delicious.
Based in Whitehorse, Yukon, Bridges Cafe features a new homemade soup each day and pair it with a sandwich, panini, or wrap from their wide selection of menu items. And to complete your meal, Bridges Cafe presents their options of delicious treats that will keep you coming back for more!
Based in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Coco Cafe, have grown their catering department in the past year and by increasing existing operations to include a full breakfast menu with extended breakfast hours on the weekends; until 2 pm on Saturday and our Sunday Brunch from 8am-2pm. Coco Cafe also offers retail food operation and also caters to weddings!
Based in Burnaby, British Columbia, Joe’s Table Cafe started when Joseph’s father and mother wanted to give Joe an opportunity to allow him to engage people. They start with great coffee that is roasted, gourmet brewed coffee, hand crafted espresso beverages and delicious snacks in a warm yet contemporary neighbourhood setting.
Based in Vancouver, British Columbia and with another opening in Calgary, Alberta this fall. Dark Table is owned by Moe Alameddine, founder of O.Noir, Canada’s only blind dining restaurants in Montreal and Toronto. The blind dining concept originated in Switzerland in the home of a blind man—Jorge Spielmann—who blindfolded his guests in an attempt to show them what eating is like for a blind person.
Spielmann’s guests enjoyed the experience immensely and claimed that when their sense of sight was removed, taste, smell, hearing and touch were amplified to the extent that the social act of eating took on a whole new meaning. These initial dinners evolved into a restaurant concept that included a dark dining room and blind servers, a tradition that Dark Table will continue.
Based in Calgary, Alberta and operated by the Calgary Progressive Lifestyles Foundation (CPLF), the Cookies on the Go and Lifestyles Bistro offers delicious treats! Early in their history, one of their clients named Gail had complex disabilities and it was challenging to engage her. After some thought, the founder, Adrienne had an idea to bake some cookies with Gail. From the smile on Gail’s face, Adrienne knew that Gail got much gratification in baking these cookies. The activity offered Gail purpose to get up in the morning to do her hair, an opportunity to meet new friends, work skill development, and improved self-imagery. Adrienne considered if the community would purchase the cookies they made, Gail could make some extra money while gaining some autonomy. Expanding on this activity of baking cookies, in 1997, CPLF started “Cookies on the Go” and made the activity of baking cookies available to more participants.
To further sustain Cookies on the Go, in 2013, CPLF created a second social enterprise called Lifestyles Bistro. A self-sustaining environmentally conscious restaurant valuing healthy eating while offering in house dining with all day breakfast, daily lunch specials, fresh fruit smoothies, speciality coffee bar and corporate catering.
Based in Regina, Saskatchewan, Munch launched their catering menu in 2016 with a focus on corporate and business lunches and breaks. Two amazing catering assistants were hired to help take on this task and Living Spirit Centre in Regina graciously provided the rental of their kitchen space for this endeavour. Catering services will be the continued focus of Munch until they are ready to expand and complement existing services with the development of a cafe.
Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in partnership with L’Arche Winnipeg, the cafe is located in the beautiful downtown Transcona. In addition to providing wholesome food and great service, the L’Arche Tova Cafe strives to provide meaningful employment to people with a disability, encourage the general public to interact and get to know people with a disability, demonstrate social responsibility, and ultimately to build a more compassionate society.
My personal favourite is the Blue Collar Breakfast, where for under $8 you get eggs, sausage/bacon, home fries and freshly baked bread!
Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the bistro is partnered with Changes Supported Living Services Inc. (Changes) – a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing individual, personalized services to adults requiring support in their homes and communities – to create Lunch Bell Bistro, a restaurant staffed almost entirely by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Based in Brampton, Ontario, their unique cupcakery was created by Mary Iusso, for her daughter Cristina and other individuals with Down Syndrome and other special needs. Cristina’s Tortina Shop creates equal employment opportunities for people with Down Syndrome and other exceptionalities. As a team, they are advocates for recognizing and supporting the abilities of these individuals.
Based in Markham, Ontario, Wayne’s cup is a fully operational café and life skills centre which focuses on the development of adults with special needs. They provide supportive training to develop skills in all aspects of the running of a café as well as teaching life skills, while also delivering a fun working environment which promotes social interaction.
Based in Milton, Ontario, the cafe is a breakfast and lunch restaurant that provides catering in the Halton area operated by Community Living North Halton. The Lunchbox Café also offers catering services for corporate & private events.
Based in Thornhill, Ontario, Dani Café is a kosher dairy restaurant that is located in Thornhill (Toronto) and offers a wide variety of dishes starting with soup and salads and straight through a selection of main courses and desserts.
Based in Toronto, Ontario the restaurant was established for the sole cause of giving back to the community. On the one hand, Hawthrone serves delicious food made from local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients. On the other, it provides free training and career development for people in need of skills and employment.
Based in Toronto, Ontario The Coffee Sheds and Lemon & Allspice are business partnerships of people with developmental disabilities who, with the help of Common Ground Co-operative, are using the skills and talents they have to create employment for themselves. Each Coffee Shed sells confectionery items, delicious baked goods, freshly brewed coffee and sandwiches and salads which are prepared daily. Lemon & Allspice is a wholesale bakery and food catering service that specializes in business meetings, community gatherings and special events. And also sell their products at several retail outlets in Toronto.
This organization is close to my heart as my younger cousin is a co-op partner working at one of the Coffee Sheds.
Based in Toronto, Ontario the cafe was originally a vocational program operated by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and high-quality products and service, emphasize community building and provide employment opportunities for the psychiatric consumer/ survivor community.
Based in Toronto, Ontario this is more than just an ice cream shop! A big part of the Lansdowne Cone is their employment training program. They’ve created 6 paid employment opportunities, and 16 unpaid training positions for youth with barriers to employment. They offer development in a supportive, community-oriented environment, and have partnerships with the Yonge Street Mission and the Geneva Centre for Autism.
Based in Montreal, Quebec and Toronto, Ontario. O.NOIR has constantly brought an extraordinary culinary adventure to guests from near and far. Already the rage in Europe, Australia, and US cities like Los Angeles and New York, O.NOIR Toronto invites guests to experience food, drinks, and conversation as never before – without the use of sight!
But O.NOIR does more than just stimulate the senses. After an hour or two in complete darkness (no flashlights, cell phones, matches, cigarette lighters, or luminous watches), customers gain a better understanding of what it’s like to be blind – just like the restaurant’s team of wait staff consisting entirely of the visually-impaired.
Based in Montreal, Quebec, the Marronniers Civic Sponsorship Jarry Second is a community-based organization that contributes to the improvement of living conditions and the power of action of people with intellectual disabilities. It actively participates in the demystification of this type of disability among the population and supports the social and socio-professional integration of people with such disabilities.
Based in Church Point, Nova Scotia, the cafe is inspired by Lisa Thibodeau was a young woman who lived in our community until her sudden death at the age of 30. She made a large impact on many who met or knew about her. She never won any awards and she did not receive a diploma when she finished school. She was never employed until she was hired by the Clare Organization Representing Persons with Disabilities (C.O.R.D). for the social enterprise called “Snack Attack”, therefore becoming C.O.R.D.’s first social enterprise employee. She is proof of how employment can change a life. Lisa enjoyed going out with friends for tea and inspired the idea of a social enterprise café, thus making Lisa T. Cafe the best name for the café. Some of Lisa’s happiest times were spent at the rink on the campus of Université Sainte-Anne, a stone’s throw from the Café.
Based in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, the cafe offers delicious homemade classics, nutritious choices and decadent desserts keep customers coming back time and time again. This, combined with their friendly customer service and fantastic prices, makes FUTURES Café the perfect spot for a scrumptious breakfast; and lunch for small to medium sized groups.
Based in Sackville, Nova Scotia, Stone Hearth Bakery is a social enterprise established in 1982 providing a work-based training program in the high demand skill of baking. The retail and wholesale bakery is the only kosher bakery east of Montreal producing premium quality European-styled, bread, bagels and speciality baked goods that are distributed throughout the Maritimes, and can be found in most major grocery stores. In 2015 they opened the Stone Hearth Café and Catering is a full-service café serving up breakfasts, lunches and tempting desserts at their Lower Sackville location.
Based in Shelbourne, Nova Scotia, the café operated by the Shelburne Association Supporting Inclusion and offers a friendly place to sit and relax with friends and enjoy a delicious healthy lunch!
Based in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, the cafe is operated by Yarmouth Association for Community Residential Options (YACRO). Their mandate is to provide meaningful employment to individuals who face barriers to employment as a result of disability, mental illness, age, language, literacy, etc. And their mission is to do this in a professional restaurant environment which brings a variety of ethnic and organic menu items to our community.
Prince Edward Island
Based in O’Leary, Prince Edward Island is operated by Community Inclusions, a Not for Profit that supports adults with intellectual disabilities in Western PEI. The bakery and cafe serve up a wide range of dishes and treats!
Their most popular dish is their turkey soup, and my personal favourite treat is their peanut butter chocolate balls!