Disability employment and cutting surplus food waste at heart of new social enterprise


A new social enterprise that provides employment opportunities for disabled adults is helping cut food waste by taking surplus produce from growers, wholesalers and retailers and turning it into healthy lunchtime meals.

EdAble Social Kitchen was set up by Suzanne O'Hara,  who has two disabled children herself.

After more than 20 years in the food industry she grew increasingly concerned with the proliferation of high-salt sugar-filled fatty packaged foods, and decided she wanted make a change.

Her answer was to seek out imperfect food and turn wonky carrots or less-than perfect fruit into home-style meals at affordable prices.

She also saw unemployment rates among the disabled community - 93 per cent of adults with learning disabilities have no paid employment - and decided to take that on too, building a business that provides an outlet for talent and enthusiasm.

On Tuesday, 26 July, Suzanne's dream came to fruition as EdAble Social Kitchen held a taster lunch in Addlestone Community Centre  where more than 50 diners lined up to try a variety of dishes created by the not-for-profit catering enterprise.

One of the biggest hurdles facing EdAble was finding a venue but with that now sorted the team is ready start a pilot for an ongoing service in Addlestone from September 2018.

Azra Mukadam, Runnymede Borough Council community development officer, was influential in helping EdAble find a suitable home.

She said: "I was contacted by Suzanne in May 2018 looking for some guidance on where she could set up her social enterprise.

"At the time she ran a small pop-up in Englefield Green, but she was finding it difficult to get the social kitchen off the ground.

"The challenge was no permanent location and lack of steady staff.

"I was eager to support this idea as it connected with me on several levels. The combination of staffing the enterprise with adults with disabilities along with using surplus food from local suppliers for me was really inspiring."

Through my role I had met Amy Marsh from County Care who was looking for a new venture or experiences to challenge her group of adults with disabilities. 

"I knew that the two groups would work so well together, so I got them in touch with each other and Addlestone Community Centre, seemed an ideal location for this enterprise to run."

Runnymede Mayor Councillor Dolsie Clarke was among the guests who appeared on the day. Dishes included Vietnamese vegetarian curry, chilli con carne and Italian pan-roasted chicken with lemon, rosemary and garlic.

Asked to choose, based on their lunch experience, whether EdAble Social Kitchen should launch an ongoing service in Addlestone or not, the vote was unanimously in favour - as the picture shows.


Suzanna said: "Recognising that a busy modern lifestyle and the cost, both of time and ingredients, can stop many families from preparing meals from scratch, she decided to do something about it." 

From September, EdAble Social Kitchen plans to pilot a lunch and afternoon takeaway scheme at the Addlestone Community Centre.

The project will be launched in collaboration with County Care Community Skills Project, a service for adults with learning disabilities and autism, which aims to provide purposeful activities and a range of opportunities in work, volunteering and enterprise, to its users.

EdAble Social Kitchen will provide a pop-up service for local customers to take-away freshly cooked meals. To begin with this would be on Thursday afternoons but the team hope to extend the days they provide service, subject to the support of the project by local customers.

Find out more about EdAble Social Kitchen at www.edablesocial.com.   

Find out more about County Care Community Skills Project at www.countycare.co.uk.

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