UVic MBA students at the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business spent a morning serving breakfast to Victoria’s most vulnerable at Our Place community centre over the fall. The 24 students spent two weeks working with the management staff to provide consulting services as part of their service management specialization.
“We’re like any other non-profit organization,” said Our Place Director of Operations Le-Ann Dolan. “Any help we can get is fantastic.” According to Dolan, the demand for aid has seen a significant increase from last year. Today, Our Place is serving up to 2 000 meals a day. Being a not-for-profit organization, they rely on food donations, which provide 60 per cent of their supply, as well as the weekly volunteer base, which numbers over 350.
“There’s a program on TV called Chopped,” said Dolan, “where you get a basket [of food] and you open it up and you have to come up with a meal. Well, we have to do that every day with 2 000 meals. Whatever comes through the door, that’s what we work with and that’s what we make.”
Heather Ranson of the Gustavson School of Business said this is the first time they have worked with a not-for-profit, as well as the first time a group of students have been able to engage with the centre they’re working with. “What we found in live cases previously is that students get to meet the client and they get to ask lots of questions,” she said. “But they don’t really get to know them unless they get to spend some time in their workplace doing observations and that sort of thing.”
As part of the program, students were required to spend time in a business environment and observe practices before compiling a consultation report on how to improve the establishment. Students spent their two weeks looking at the customer experience, food supply and demand, and volunteer experience of Our Place. “One of the best ways to observe is to actually serve a meal,” said Ranson.
The Sponsor-A-Breakfast program at Our Place provided just that opportunity. While the centre offers breakfast of a simpler fair every day, companies and organizations have the opportunity to raise $500 and sponsor a hot breakfast which they will then lend a hand in serving.
“We have oatmeal every day, but when we get a sponsor for breakfast, it’s something special,” said Grant McKenzie, director of communications for Our Place. “It’s a hot, cooked breakfast. That’s something that we can’t afford to do as an organization, but the Sponsor-A-Breakfast [program] allows us to give the family members a treat.”
Because the money for the breakfast came out of a program fee attached to the course that is used for events, the students essentially funded the breakfast themselves.
Because of the success of the original project, Our Place has now applied for a summer student position so that the student’s recommendations can be carried out. “It was a win-win. It was an excellent experience,” said Dolan.