The healing power of jam

The Southridge Jam Company is located in the Niagara fruit-belt and provides meaningful work for people who are homeless. The goal is to help participants get back on their feet. In this documentary, you'll meet three people whose lives have been changed through making jam.
Thomas makes peach jam at the Southridge Jam Company. (Jeff Goodes/CBC)

The Southridge Jam Company hopes to improve the lives of homeless Canadians... through jam. The social enterprise was created by the Southridge Church, an organization that runs several community outreach programs in Ontario's Niagara region. The aim of the jam company is to boost the efforts of Southridge's 40-bed homeless shelter, located in St. Catharines.

"What we were finding is that folks that were doing so well started to lose momentum pretty quickly when they were out of the shelter," said Tim Arnold, Southridge's Director of Community Outreach.

Kathleen cooks up some inverted sugar at the Southridge Jam Copmany. (Jeff Goodes/CBC)
Homeless clients participate in an eight-week program in the jam company located in a commercial kitchen in Vineland, Ontario. They work alongside local volunteers and a professional chef, who teaches them how to turn fresh, local fruit into jars of jam. The jam is then sold to make money for Southridge's homeless shelter, as well as programming for migrant farm workers.

The whole thing means people are learning many new skills: food prep, marketing, how to train beginners. It's also a way for people who have been homeless to spend time in a supportive environment.

Kevin, a participant who formerly worked as a nurse, says his descent into homelessness followed bad decisions that led him into crippling debt. It wasn't long until he'd lost everything.
Kevin explains the jam-making process. (Jeff Goodes/CBC)

"It wasn't just the money coming in. It was the lifestyle that went along with it. It was the home I had. The clothing I wore. The friends that I kept, the places that we would go out to eat. Everything. You lose all of that. And you lose yourself. You're like, 'I'm nothing now.'"

But alongside his teammates at the jam company, Kevin is both making peach jam and rebuilding his confidence.

As his teammate Kathleen says, "you can sit there and feel sorry for yourself. Or you can stand up and say, 'This isn't going to happen, we're all going to work together, we're all going to do this right and we're all going to be feeling good about it and each other.'"

Click LISTEN to join Jeff Goodes inside the Southridge Jam kitchen and meet some more of the participants.

This segment originally aired November 6, 2016. 

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