Raleigh, NC, January 7, 2021
The sensABLE snacks Food Trucks program is the first of its kind in NC offering a unique employment program and a working business. It is an inclusive training ground; helping adults living with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) develop into successful, independent and competitively employed co-workers in the hospitality industry and beyond. This is innovative collaboration between Easterseals UCP and Trillium Health Resources which began in November 2019 was recently awarded the i2i Center for Integrative Health 2020 Care Challenge Innovation Award. This award recognizes a program that has “implemented one or more service changes during COVID-19 that improves the quality of whole-person care for individuals receiving services and that will be carried forth into a post COVID-19 world.”
Pre-COVID, the food trucks traveled to communities in and around New Bern & Ahoskie, NC selling healthy, pre-packaged snacks. Employees trained in over 26 jobs through valuable, hands-on work. Then, on March 15th business as usual came to a halt. During COVID-19, supporting the sensABLE snacks’ tagline and mission of “together, we’re healthy, willing and ABLE” was challenging but a strategy was developed to move forward – creating snack-o-grams. The team transitioned to working from home – packaging snack-o-grams! The value of these packages is real: when asked why someone might like to receive one, an employee answered, “It makes them happy!” In fact, the popularity of this product translated into the highest sales they had ever seen! Purposeful work is essential to self-worth, health & well-being and sensABLE snacks was able to adapt, overcome and continue their success in 2020.
“It is truly my honor to accept this award on behalf of sensABLE snacks,” Leslie Lawrence, Food Truck program manager said, “Once COVID-19 hit, our trucks were forced to park and we had to think outside the box - we weren’t going to sit back and watch. That led to the creation of our virtual store, and a brand new sector of business for sensABLE snacks.”
Their new snack-o-grams created safe work opportunities - their team transitioned to work from home - packaging snack-o-grams! In addition, to maintain teamwork and communication, weekly Zoom trainings served 19 individuals in over 183 Zoom calls. One employee stated that without the work during COVID he would have been “sleeping, playing video games and hanging out with his dog.” In addition, five new individuals began working, one employee safely obtained CPR certification and they created a robust training curriculum. The trucks, working with local food banks, also made seven safe deliveries to “food deserts.”
COVID-19 was a challenge but sensABLE snacks will carry these new ideas into a post-COVID world. They are paving the way to a better future through employment, food access and whole-person health.
Learn more about the Easterseals UCP sensABLE snacks Food Truck program and watch awards video.