MOD Pizza on Friday announced a new partnership with the National Restaurant Association’s philanthropic arm — the NRA Educational Foundation (NRAEF) — to support justice-involved young adults with employment and job training. The new program is part of the HOPES (Hospitality Opportunities for People (Re)Entering Society) Program that was created as a result of a $4.5 million grant the NRAEF received from the Department of Labor in 2019.
Seattle-based MOD Pizza said in a statement that of “650,000 people who exit the justice system each year, 52% will be reincarcerated within three years if they lack stable employment.” The new program aims to employ young adults aged 18-24 who have previously been incarcerated, and to reduce recidivism by focusing on supportive job placement, retention, and career advancement.
“Over the years, we have seen firsthand the incredible opportunity that exists for companies to make an impact by providing jobs to individuals with barriers to employment,” said Ally Svenson, co-founder and chief purpose officer of MOD Pizza, in a statement. “Now, through this collaboration, we can provide critical resources to help our squads on their journey to stability and economic mobility. We are grateful to the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation for choosing MOD as their first national restaurant partner.”
The HOPES Program will begin in the Chicago area, with plans for a nationwide rollout by the end of 2021. The original grant was targeted at three cities: Boston, Chicago and Hampton Roads/Richmond, Va., and the program will be run in conjunction with local corrections departments, community-based organizations and state restaurant associations in each city.
Services provided by the program include personalized case management, ServSafe educational support, legal support, health services, mental health counseling, educational support to complete high school, temporary housing assistance, transportation assistance and substance abuse counseling.
Scott and Ally Svenson, co-founders of MOD Pizza, have long been advocates of hiring young adults and the formerly incarcerated, as well as those with intellectual disabilities, and elevating them to positions of management. MOD said the collaboration with the NRAEF, which has a program — Opportunity Youth — that aims to help the same subsets of the population, seemed like a perfect fit.
“Ten years ago, when MOD opened their second store in Seattle, they gave me a second chance,” said Kory Harp, program manager of opportunity employment at MOD Pizza, in a statement. “As someone who has personally navigated this journey, I recognize that a job is just the beginning. This partnership gives us the tools we need to help ensure more employees succeed.”
“MOD Pizza has set the standard for how restaurants can meaningfully and successfully work with justice-involved youth. This partnership will allow us to create pathways to long term success for dedicated employees who are often overlooked by society,” said Susan Crystal-Mansour, Ph.D., vice president of program impact at NRAEF, in a statement. “We are honored to have MOD as our inaugural partner in our life-changing HOPES program. We believe this partnership can be the gold standard for the rest of the industry.”
MOD Pizza is the first restaurant partner for this program and has almost 500 restaurants as of March 2021.