Hi, I'm Danny Moon. I’m the Chef Instructor here at the Covenant House Toronto location.
Last year, with our program at Cooking for Life, has been really different. COVID has really affected us in new ways that have challenged us to rethink about the way we approach our program.
Definitely, the first biggest thing was, how do we keep safe? How do we social distance and keep each other safe and still being able to work operate at this program.
That part wasn’t a huge challenge. We’ve been fortunate enough to be given a pretty spacious kitchen here.
And so with the ten youth that we’ve had every group, we’ve been able to split them up and have five of them starting downstairs in the morning. Doing various workshops that we think are valuable.
We know that every youth isn't going to be pursuing a career in culinary. So we wanted to give them different certificates and things that will equip them to be more employable. To allow them to get jobs in other fields, whatever it is that kind of life heads them towards.
So we have half the group working downstairs doing the different workshops that we have prepared for them. While the other half are up here in the kitchen with me, in the Cooking for Life kitchen.
And then after our lunch break, we swap. That way we'll have only five and five at a time. We’re able to keep good social distancing. And so that was a bit of the easy part that took care of the social distancing piece.
The harder challenge that we had to face during COVID was finding industry partners to do our placements with. After the youth that participate in our program spend eight weeks with us, we send them off to our different industry partners to do another eight weeks of placement opportunities. Like actually in the hospitality industry, in the field.
So given the situation with COVID right now, and it’s been really tough to even want to reach out and ask our previous partners, ask new partners for the potential of finding new job opportunities for our young people.
The crazy thing about it is, our partners have been so amazing. Outside of maybe just one stretch of like lockdown period, we’ve fortunately been able to find places for our young people to work at. That’s really nothing but a testimony to just how amazing our placement partners are, how generous they are, how much they want to support our program, the young people that are part of the program that are in need of employment, that are in need of work experience and whatnot.
So yeah, it’s just been really great to see the outpouring of support from them. They’ve been facing so many challenges during COVID. I’m sure we all know the way that the hospitality restaurant industry has been hit this last year.
And so it’s just been so amazing to see them reach out to us and allow us to know that they’ve had places. They have places ready for our youth to work at. So it’s been really great to see. We really appreciate their support.
Like I said, there was one stretch where we faced a time where we couldn’t send anybody out. So we were fortunate enough to get approval to do an in-house placement period. So for seven weeks, we actually had five of our youth return. And from a couple of different previous groups, and we ran an in-house placement where these five youth, all females actually, really strong females, it's really great to see these young chefs take the charge.
And they led every day. I really was just amazed at how I was able to take a step back and let them kind of take the lead. And they all took turns being chef for the day. And what we did for the seven weeks is we provided around, I think it was like just over 150 meals, two times a week for all the different areas, all the different housing areas that Covenant House Toronto has.
And so it was super great to see they're all excited to be back with us in here, working in the kitchen again. And to have this new opportunity work they could really take the lead on everything, from venue planning, budgeting and obviously the execution and assembly of all the meals.
It was super amazing to see seven weeks flew by really quick. We actually went from five down to four because another one of our partners provided a placement appointment for one of them, so they had to take off early.
But even going down to four, they still worked strong, they got the job done. It was so amazing. I would really love to be able to do something like that again. But we know that it's not a long-term solution.
We do want to send them out into the hospitality industry, we just hope that COVID lightens up a bit and we’re able to open up the hospitality industry again or see it open up again so that we can see it just thrive like it always has in the past and send our youth out to our different partners to gain employment, to gain life experience, job experience and become successful.