CHEK Upside: Cowichan bakery providing employment for people with developmental disabilities

WatchAt the Clements Centre in Duncan, there's a bakery serving up smiles.

At the Clements Centre in Duncan, there’s a bakery serving up smiles.

The Mindful Mouthful started in 2015 as a way to provide employment opportunities to people with developmental disabilities. Previously, the bakery was a training kitchen that produced goods for sale to the public with volunteer help.

“The actual workers were not getting paid for what they were producing and we wanted to change that,” said Clements Centre representative Sheila Coogan.

“We wanted them to get real pay for real work. So with the help of a consultant, we developed a business plan and we’ve been going ever since then,” said Coogan.

Kitchen staff prepare and bake everything from meat pies to cookies and while COVID-19 has led to some changes, the program is still running strong.

“COVID has certainly presented challenges for us with our workforce because not everybody’s back at work yet,” said Coogan. “So we kind run a skeleton crew of five Mindful Mouthful employees, they’re supported by our community support workers from the day program and then we have a kitchen manager as well who oversees the day-to-day operations.”

The Mindful Mouthful has turned into its own community, where the baking is just a small part of the experience.

“I like it here and they make it fun, and everybody works as a team,” said baker Tawny Daw.

It’s just as rewarding for staff at the centre.

“I think there’s nothing more wonderful than seeing the look on somebody’s face when we print off a Facebook comment that says ‘I tried the cookies, and tell so-and-so they’re the greatest baker ever,’ because they know they’re contributing to their community,” said Coogan.

To learn more about The Mindful Mouthful, visit their website.

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Cole SorensonCole Sorenson

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