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Food Cluster

TEF is supporting 16 employment social enterprises operating in the food industry through their participation in a 'Food Cluster'. Through being a member in the cluster, food-based employment social enterprises in Peel, Toronto and York Region have access to meet-ups, mentors, cluster project grants, and an online network.

Quick Statistics

  • Cluster members operate full-service restaurants, catering enterprises, cafes, co-packing businesses, and offer food-based contract services to large customers
  • In 2017, the participating enterprises earned over $4.2M through sales
  • Collectively, the enterprises provided employment to over 200 people facing barriers to the labour market in part-time and full-time roles
  • Cluster members were most likely to support the following populations: newcomers, people with physical or cognitive disabilities, people living in poverty, LGBTQ+ people, and people who are street-involved
  • All cluster members offer participants some training. 89% of cluster members offered technical / industry training, 72% offered essential skills training, and 67% offered employability training
  • All cluster members offer participants at least one ‘wraparound support’. 78% provided coaching and emotional support, and 47% provided personal and professional development planning support

Cluster Member Profiles

The Coffee Sheds  The Coffee Sheds are social enterprise cafés that are owned and operated by people with developmental disabilities, created by Common Ground Co-operative. Their kiosks offer a wide variety of crafted hot and cold coffee and tea beverages alongside a curated selection of snack items, and catering that includes artisanal baked goods, sandwiches and salads prepared by their sister enterprise Lemon & Allspice Cookery. 
Livlihood Cafe Livelihood Cafe is a social cafe that sells quick-serve food & beverages, and creates long-term employment for middle-aged women and youth from immigrant communities.
Paintbox Catering & Bistro Paintbox Catering & Bistro is a social enterprise that offers premium catering, event planning services and a store-front bistro. They create transitional employment opportunities for the residents of Regent Park that face multiple barriers to employment.
Hawthorne Food & Drink  Hawthorne Food & Drink is a social enterprise restaurant, operating in Toronto's busy financial district. Hawthorne is a full-service, 40-seat licensed restaurant, that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as offering both in-house and off-site catering. Hawthorne offers training in front-of-house, as well as in the back-of-house. Training varies from 4-weeks to 12-weeks and is targeted at various multi-barriered populations, including youth, racialized people, new immigrants, refugees and anyone who is either under-or unemployed.  
The Lansdowne Cone  The Lansdowne Cone is a purpose driven social enterprise selling high quality locally sourced ice cream while creating community-based transitional employment opportunities for youth with social and developmental barriers to employment.
LOFT Kitchen  LOFT Kitchen is a catering and cafe social enterprise providing high-quality catering in Toronto and a café in the Junction Triangle neighbourhood. Loft Kitchen creates meaningful employment and mentoring opportunities in the food-service sector to youth facing barriers to employment including; LGBTQ+ youth, newcomer and refugee youth and youth living with disabilities. 
Friends Catering Friends Catering is a social purpose enterprise that empowers individuals who are experiencing poverty and homelessness through work in their exceptional catering business. 
Out of This World Cafe and Catering Out of This World Cafe and Catering is an employment social enterprise which provides customers with delicious and nutritious food while providing individuals with histories of addiction and mental illness with meaningful long term employment. 
Fabarnak Fabarnak is a bustling cafe and catering service that provides training and creates short and long-term jobs in a welcoming environment primarily for members of the LGBTQ+ community. 
North York Harvest Food Bank North York Harvest Food Bank is the primary distributor of emergency food in north Toronto. In addition to core food bank activities, NYHFB provides a 13-week training program and employment opportunities for people on Ontario Works and others facing barriers to employment with an interest in logistics and warehousing employment through providing co-packaging, warehousing and delivery services for social service agencies and non-profit institutions. 
Deaf Cultural Centre Deaf Cultural Centre, under the auspices of the Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf, sells tea and other products made by Deaf artists, creating employment for the Deaf community.
Wayne's Cup Wayne’s Cup is a Markham-based not-for-profit that operates a life skills program and café  dedicated to the development of adults with special needs.
Frontburners Youth Kitchen Frontburners Youth Kitchen is a catering kitchen run by youth. Participating youth are trained by a culinary manager to provide a variety of dishes from all across the world. The program provides skill development and employment opportunities to youth facing a variety of barriers. 
Destination Cafe Destination Café is a social purpose enterprise that sells coffee and coffee-related products, tea, and other beverages and creates employment opportunities for people living with barriers to employment, including mental health challenges.
Lemon and Allspice Lemon and Allspice is a wholesale bakery and catering business owned and operated by people with developmental disabilities supported by Common Ground Co-operative.
Eden Food for Change Eden Food for Change is a Mississauga-based charity that operates food-based employment and training programs for newcomers and youth. In the summers, Eden Food for Change employs youth facing barriers to prepare nutritious meals for a local summer camp. And year-round, Eden Food for Change also employs folks facing barriers to employment in the provision of catering to local organization and businesses.

Get Involved

There are multiple ways to get involved with the Food Cluster: 

  • Purchase from the Food Cluster: Interested in purchasing from members of the food cluster? Please reach out directly to the enterprise that you're interested in purchasing from. Interested in purchasing large orders from a group of cluster members? Contact Bronwyn Oatley, TEF Manager, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Become a Member of the Food Cluster: Operating a food industry employment social enterprise in Peel, Toronto or York region? Email Bronwyn Oatley, TEF Manager, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to get a link to the application to participate. 
  • Partner with the Food Cluster: Looking for an opportunity to partner with members of the food cluster? Reach out to the enterprises directly to explore collaboration opportunities. If you're interested in a partnership opportunity with a group of cluster enterprises, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Mentor the Food Cluster: Experienced food industry entrepreneur? Food policy expert? Culinary skills training leader? Review this Mentor role description and apply to support the food cluster. 

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