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Quietly, sometimes not so quietly, social enterprise and social innovation have been gaining momentum over the last decade in Vancouver. Last night I walked from our Strathcona office to District 319, a historic eastside theatre. As I walked over to the event, I thought about everything that has been accomplished by the The Potluck Café over the past decade.

It has been 10 years of providing nourishing food, education and jobs to Vancouver Downtown Eastside residents. This social enterprise is a successful community economic development model. They run a professional Café and Catering enterprise that serves hundreds of socially-responsible corporate and non profit clients. Their ability to thrive in business allows them to also succeed as a charity. Revenue is re-invested into 5 community social programs that are integrated into their daily services.

A highlight of the the anniversary celebration was hearing Heather O'Hara recognize the people who not only started the operation but made it happen. Hearing stories from the beginning inspire me. Running a successful business is hard enough work on it's own. When you add in the complexity of training and employing people who have barriers to employment and housing, it adds a whole new layer of complexity.

The staff at the Potluck are always bustling and moving. In addition to the Café and Catering, they serve over 30,000 free meals annually to residents of the DTES who are suffering physically and mentally. The process of feeding folks achieves more than address hunger and malnutrition. Through the Community Kitchen programs, DTES residents gather to cook together and build relationships. This makes nutritious food accessible to low income and "hard to house" individuals. It also builds community surrounding health.

The Potluck Café is guided by their core values: Quality, Respect, Acceptance, Diversity, Commitment and Innovation.

10_years_at_Potluck_Cafe_social_enterprise_in_VancouverIt is exciting to see a social enterprise that does more that serve a community and do good. They equip residents with the ability to
cook nutritious meals and the skills to sustain themselves with employment. The Integrated Food Services & Life Skills Training and Employment Program has trained and employed dozens of DTES residents with barriers to employment.

So much has been achieved over the years. However, Potluck doesn’t seem to think that there is any sort of arrival point. They continue to innovative on a daily basis. It’s my hope that in the new year we can work together to bring some of their products to market through our corporate gift baskets business.