The Columbus-based Economic and Community Development Institute is celebrating seven years of investing locally in innovative entrepreneurs to create sustainable economic and social change. Since 2004, the organization has helped to create 2,000 businesses and 4,000 jobs with its small business development programs, including its small business loan program. In this series, we will be introducing you to some of the dynamic small businesses funded by ECDI.
Many parents of autistic children find that a gluten-free, casein-free diet improves social and cognitive function for children with autism. Gluten and casein are so ubiquitous in today’s food, however, that those choosing to follow a GFCF lifestyle for their children find that all food must be prepared laboriously at home, with cautious regard to ingredient lists and nutritional information.
After becoming involved with GFCF-living as a therapy for her son’s autism symptoms, Dr. Audrey Todd initially conceived of a restaurant where her son could learn job skills. This vision developed into the concept of a lively gluten-free bakery where autistic adults could find employment and gain vocational training and members of the community could gather to sample delicious baked goods. She decided to call it Food for Good Thought.
Realizing her dream of a supported employment and vocational facility for individuals with autism was bound to require plenty of grit and perseverance. However, participating in ECDI’s small business loan program helped Todd overcome some of the obstacles that can hold back many entrepreneurs.
“Basically, I wouldn’t have been able to get the equipment without ECDI,” says Todd of the baking equipment outfitting Food for Good Thought’s kitchen, including a large industrial mixer and oven.
After closing the ECDI loan and purchasing the equipment, Todd was able to secure commercial kitchen licensure for the Clintonville bakery space at 4185 N. High St. The facility is now accredited as a rehabilitation facility through the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities in employment services to individuals with autism.
Food for Good Thought is currently employing three supported employees as well as providing job training and job development for individuals who would like to work outside the facility. The ability to produce the baked goods on-site and employ individuals with autism is certainly an important aspect in fostering the intended inclusiveness of Food for Good Thought.
Food for Good Thought goodies are available in many retail outlets outside the bakery, including Clintonville Community Market, Weiland’s Gourmet Market, the Raisin Rack, and Cuzzins Yogurt. Giant Eagle will be carrying its pizzas, and Global Gallery stocks its muffins and cupcakes. Food for Good Thought also contracts with Ohio University and Kent State University to serve their populations with gluten intolerance or Celiac disease.
“My wish is for a dynamic and bustling bakery that is an integrated setting for individuals with developmental disabilities,” Todd says of the bakery’s future. With an emphasis on health, vocational training, and community-building, Food for Good Thought is sure to become a neighborhood mainstay.
Food for Good Thought is a model of ECDI’s legacy of sustainable economic development in Central Ohio– by helping to create one business, many individuals will have the opportunity to learn job skills and find employment.
To learn more about Food for Good Thought, visit FoodForGoodThought.com.