The Start Fresh Project Society is a non-profit that provides access to healthy food, outdoor activities, sustainable farming skills, cooking skills, life skills, and direct connections to meaningful employment through their Culinary Arts and Farm Education (CAFE) Program. The program is geared towards empowering vulnerable community members to make positive changes in their lives through connecting to local food via a farm-to-table approach.
The Start Fresh Project Society also runs a for-profit social enterprise, the Start Fresh Kitchen, that hosts classes and small events and is home to their catering kitchen. The Start Fresh Kitchen helps create a sustainable revenue source for the non-profit society by purchasing produce directly from the Start Fresh Farm.
Here’s what Michael Buffett had to say about his inspiration behind starting Start Fresh, and how creating a social enterprise has helped support the non-profit.
Name of Company: Start Fresh Project / Start Fresh Kitchen
Type of Organization: Non-profit and a separate for profit social enterprise
Headquarters: Kelowna, BC
Number of Employees: 7
Year Founded: 2016
The Problem: I struggled when I was growing up, and I always said that I was going to be on the other side one day. Fast forward years later, I became a pretty successful chef with a great job, and I felt at that point I had the ability to pay it forward. When I moved out to the Okanagan I was coming down off of some big jobs where I didn’t find that I had much work-life balance. I was at an event called “The Conversation That Matters” and I got inspired. A few days later I went to the Canadian Mental Health Association and told them that I wanted to start teaching some classes to help with employment and necessary life skills.
The Solution: It started with a really simple idea of once a month cooking classes at the CMHA, and it grew from there. We started teaching more, and we partnered with the Karis Society, the Boys and Girls Club and the Food Bank. The classes became more popular, and we then had a farm donated to us. We realized when the farm was donated that we needed some sort of funding model because it wasn’t cheap and we didn’t have any government funding at that point.
The vegetables that are grown on the non-profit farm are purchased by the business for catering and events that allow us to get on-demand, fresh produce where we know where it was grown. This allows the non-profit to have a sustainable funding model and the for-profit social enterprise can have a permanent home where we can host classes for our students and provide education and meaningful employment opportunities. The goal was to have a symbiotic relationship between the non-profit and for profit.
Accomplishments: We just graduated our first group of students through our program. In January of 2018 we are creating a quick lunch service where students will have the opportunity to become employed after they’ve finished their training in the Start Fresh Kitchen.
What We Need Help With: Funding opportunities, volunteers, donations of good quality kitchen and farm tools, and spreading the word about what we do.
Start Fresh is currently looking to raise money for tools and machinery for their farm. If you’re interested in donating, check out their campaign.