H.A.V.E. Culinary Training pivots business to help community during COVID

March 16, 2021

two woman in chef

Before the pandemic, Hope Action Values Ethics (H.A.V.E.) Culinary Training Society’s students used their training kitchens to prepare food for their catering clients, café and restaurant. Led by Executive Director, Chef Amber Anderson C.C.C., the Vancouver society helps persons with employment challenges gain occupational skills. People are able to cook in a real work environment and graduates often go onto stable employment in the restaurant industry.

But the COVID-19 pandemic completely changed the way H.A.V.E. Culinary Training Society does business.

“When COVID hit in March 2020, we lost almost all of our traditional catering business. Think office lunches, fruit delivery, dinners for training programs,” said Anderson. “We made the difficult decision to close our café and culinary training program temporarily to focus on food security for community members.”

H.A.V.E. temporarily pivoted their business, focusing on three areas: bagged lunches, hot meals, and frozen meals. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, frozen meals were a high-priority need identified by housing providers.

“These meals needed to be individually portioned, high quality, and competitively priced,” said Michael Lachocki, BC Housing’s Manager of Procurement. “H.A.V.E. enthusiastically stepped up to assist. In a very short time they provided over 2,000 nutritious meals with a variety of different foods. We were also pleased to meet a key goal of our procurement process - to strengthen social enterprises like H.A.V.E. They not only met an ambitious order, but they support local employment programs through their business model.”

covered food trays prepared by HAVE Culinary Training

The relationship between H.A.V.E. and BC Housing goes back a long way. Since 2007, H.A.V.E. has been an important partner for temporary response shelters. Most recently, they have been providing 2-3 fresh meals each day to residents at the Holiday Inn in Vancouver. As new individuals move in, the numbers and dietary needs fluctuate. H.A.V.E. works closely with BC Housing coordinators to ensure shelter residents have their needs met.

“BC Housing’s order really catalyzed our frozen meal production. It allowed us the opportunity to produce our meals on a large scale,” said Anderson. “It feels good knowing that we helped put a meal on someone’s table and hired people with barriers to do it.”

Diane is a graduate of H.A.V.E.’s culinary training program. She was involved with preparing the frozen meals for BC Housing. She began her training in 2016 and currently works as a catering cook.

“H.A.V.E. has changed my life,” said Diane. “I no longer want to sit at home being depressed and sad. I am more driven to get going and do things. By being a good role model, I am teaching my daughters the value of attending school, being on time, and being accountable.”

Since 2007, H.A.V.E. has trained more than 1,200 students with 75 per cent of them graduating and going on to employment.

“Seeing our students graduate, go on to have an apartment and a job, and give back to the community is what we are most proud of,” added Anderson.

H.A.V.E is now developing a new training program that focuses on larger scale catering production. They continue to provide prepared meals to community organizations as needed.

In February 2021, H.A.V.E. was selected as a finalist for the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s inaugural Business Reinvention Award. Being shortlisted for the award recognizes H.A.V.E.’s incredible work to shift their entire business model to support the needs in their community.