From treats to training, the nest keeps giving back

By By Aaron Rubin • 08/06/2022 09:37 AM EST

The Nest Coffee House in Deep River began as an effort to give back and be an inclusive part of the Deep River community, providing job training and skills needed for future employment for young people with disabilities. Since March, Nest has found a new way to give back to the community, including in the form of dog treats.

At its location on Main Street and at various local businesses around town, the cafe will sell dog treats called Doggie Barks, the notable ingredient of which is spent grain scraps donated to Nest by the Tri-City Area’s three breweries. : Little House Brewing Company in Chester, High Nine Brewing in Deep River and Surfridge Brewing Company in Essex.

Spent grains are leftover grains that would otherwise be considered waste after the brewing process for beer production is complete. Rather than throwing away those grains immediately, The Nest has collaborated with the three breweries since March to create the treats, which are made with peanut butter, flour and eggs.

Over time, different types of treats with new flavors and for other pets may also be produced, according to Lisa Enright, director of development at The Nest.

“We’ve had requests for cats, and some for other flavors,” she says. “We haven’t really diversified other than peanut butter. But certainly in our future, I see us doing that.

The idea for Nest and Breweries’ recycling effort was founded after a parent of one of Nest’s young bakers found spent grain-based dog treats created by a Michigan company, according to Jane Moen, executive director of The Nest. After immediately selling out its first batches, Nest decided to strengthen its relationship with High Nine and Little House by producing its own brand of treats.

In just its second month of sweets production, The Nest was able to expand sales to a variety of local stores, including Adams Hometown Market, Simon’s Marketplace in Chester, Foodworks in Old Saybrook and the three partner breweries. According to Enright, a prospect list of new locations has been created, with a new outlet at a dog-friendly hotel in Rhode Island.

In addition to their popularity and sales outside of Deep River, producing the treats has also been a way for The Nest to provide employment opportunities for young people with disabilities, as well as needed new skills.

“Our goal is always to provide jobs. The more jobs we can provide for these young people, the better,” Moen said. “I think the face-to-face job of a barista is a bit difficult for some young adults. There is a lot of contact with customers and a lot of tasks. Since I don’t have a dishwasher job, everyone kind of does everything. So the opportunity to have a job that was maybe a bit more focused and tight, and not forward-facing, sounded pretty exciting.

The young employees, equipped with skills in time management, food measurement and packaging, are able to produce up to 90 candy wrappers per week. These organizational skills needed to create Doggie Barks go all the way down to calculating their exact expiration date, which is normally six weeks after final preparation.

This work is a testament to the increased number of jobs and hours of work that The Nest has provided for its young workers. It was this chance to provide healthy employment and training opportunities for young people with disabilities that was Moen’s personal priority before opening The Nest.

“I have a daughter who is autistic, and she is really bright. But we found that for her getting and keeping a job was a very difficult task, and it was not for lack of her ability to do a job,” she said. “It was the anxiety and the understanding that had to be needed to get to the point where you were learning a job well. There’s all kinds of research that shows that the biggest predictor of a young adult’s future success is if they had a job in high school. For a person with a disability, this is essential.

Besides the comfortable start that The Nest has provided young people with disabilities in vocational training and skills education, the cafe also offers for sale a variety of products created by its young employees. While grabbing a packet of Doggie Barks, customers can browse a selection of homemade soap bars, scrunchies, mugs, and small framed artwork. For Moen, these products and dog treats are meant to represent pride in neurodiversity and inclusion in general, which is welcome at The Nest, a place where its young employees can call home as a safe space for who they are.

“We are really determined to have everything included. That’s kind of our goal. We call it “a soft place to land”. Nest has started [training people] with autism and intellectual disabilities, but it eventually became a place for many groups who feel marginalized,” Moen said. “We love it. Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever your life journey, you are welcome here.

The Nest has embarked on an initiative to educate the community about the neurodiversity of its employees and help change the conversation and views surrounding people with mental and intellectual disabilities. To express this narrative not only with its working population, there is also a Neurodiversity Children’s Library on a shelf in one of its rooms, which includes stories about children with disabilities. Further demonstrating its commitment to inclusion, The Nest will fly its Pride flag for the month of June and will also display Pride-related items.

Comments are closed.