Pop Up Snack Shop: Creating Community-Based Jobs for Individuals with Down Syndrome

DSAGSL aims to benefit the lives of people with Down syndrome and their families.

People with Down syndrome (Ds) want to work just like their peers; and with the right supports, they can. However, these supports are not always readily accessible in St. Louis. People with disabilities have always faced challenges in hiring. As a result, the Department of Labor estimates that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than twice that of the overall unemployment rate. However, we estimate that the problem is even greater for people with Ds. While St. Louis has job-training/resources for people with disabilities, many of these programs have deemed our job candidates 'unemployable' based on the perceived level of support needed. Yet, as the area's leading advocate for individuals with Ds, the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis (DSAGSL) knows better. Through our Pop Up Snack Shop, DSAGSL takes a comprehensive approach to job training and placement for people with Ds, helping prepare them for success in community-based employment.

The Pop Up Snack Shop combines job skills training and retail experience to help people with Ds find community-based jobs. Run by people with Ds, the Pop Up Snack Shop “pops up” at local businesses to sell specially-curated snack boxes to hungry patrons. Our trainees hone professional skills and get paid, and the Shop highlights the amazing capabilities of people with Ds to the public and potential employers! Now in year 2, 14 of our candidates have found employment. However, the program’s growth is limited by transportation means. Most people with Ds do not drive, so DSAGSL staff transport Shop materials and employees to events in their personal cars. This limits the number and size of events we can book. If funded, we’d use the $25,000 grant to purchase a cargo/passenger van, so we can transport supplies and employees. The growth would be immediate, as we are already turning down requests for bookings. Even better - with more events, we can open the program to more participants!

DSAGSL is working towards a world where all individuals with Ds can live up to their full potential, which includes the chance to work in and serve their communities like their typically-developing peers. When we create opportunity, we know that individuals with Ds will rise to the occasion. More broadly, DSAGSL promotes inclusive employment because we strongly believe that everyone benefits from living in a more-inclusive community. A common phrase in the Ds community is that "we are more alike than different" and this rings true - individuals with Ds have the same hopes and dreams as their peers, and they are just as capable of amazing things. By focusing on what we have in common with one another rather than our differences, we can create a kinder and more understanding world.