Friday, August 28, 2009

Food Banking Challenges Creating Employment Opportunities for Individuals Rebuilding Lives

New opportunities often follow new challenges.

In today’s economy, food banks are facing new realities that make providing services more difficult. Increased efficiency at food production facilities and supermarkets is decreasing the supply of donated food from corporations to local food banks. At the same time, the current economy is increasing the demand for help from food banks. To further complicate this environment, the federal government is asking food banks to increase the nutritional quality of the food that they provide. These are significant challenges for the nonprofits that provide real help to families facing hunger. Yet, this very environment is creating an opportunity for a new faith venture to change the lives of individuals rebuilding lives from addiction, homelessness or prison…the very risk factors that lead to a need for food bank services.

Starting later this year, an innovative new partnership between Compa Ministries, Providence Network and Belay Enterprises will operate a canning facility to produce food supplies for area food banks. Compa Ministries will manage a new food line in its facility producing a healthy line of canned food products. Employees will be residents of the Providence Network transformational housing program. Belay Enterprises will employ these individuals in a staffing services project that will provide job and life skill training. This partnership will create seven paid production positions. This number is expected to triple over the next three years as the project expands. Employees in the program will work in the project for 6 months to one year and then transition into real world jobs in the community.

In addition to working with Compa, I’m excited to see how this project might expand beyond that initial relationship. Several years ago, a firm that was experiencing difficulty finding employees approached Belay. They were unable to hire individuals with past non-violent criminal issues because of corporate policy. This particular company was able to outsource those positions to another firm, allowing the hiring of individuals with criminal histories. At the time, Belay was not in a position to pursue a staffing company so we passed on the opportunity. But with the creation of the Compa canning business, we are looking for other manufacturing or warehousing businesses that might be interested in outsourcing to a staffing services project. This is an opportunity for businesses to positively impact the community while obtaining high-quality employees surrounded by comprehensive support services.

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