One woman’s nutritious catering helps low-income children and elderly in Ecuador

Before the pandemic, Gladis Ilimiquinga ran a small cleaning business, but all of that changed when she could no longer safely entire most buildings and the need for cleaning services was halted indefinitely. She enrolled in gastronomy certification courses at the Inta-Kara Advancing Life™Vocational Center, a training program for foodservice industry professionals. Now she has transformed her business into a full-time catering industry that services the children of low-income families and seniors.

Certification leads to more jobs

The courses lasted throughout the months of June, July, and August of 2021. Then in October, Gladis was able to start expanding her business. Now they employ 13 people, including 11 women and two men. Many people in the area were out of work due to the pandemic.

“We’re so thankful for this opportunity,” says Gladis. “Our employees have told us that we have given them one of the only opportunities for work in this area. Now they are inspired to learn more and help other people find jobs to provide for their families.”

Proper nutrition that saves lives

The certification course helped Gladis learn how to plate the food, how to serve it properly, and create balanced menus that were healthy for elderly adults and children. Chefs in the certification program taught Gladis that it is healthier to cook meat like chicken in milk. Plus, the new flavor is a hit with their clients. Food that is delivered to older adults is sugar-free, low-fat, and low in sodium to accommodate specialized health needs.

“The food we provide for the children’s centers is planned with a nutritionist and we prioritize the health of the children,” explains Gladis. “If we know there is a child who is underweight, we provide special meals for them. If there are children who are lactose intolerant, we make sure they have safe food to eat that takes their allergy into consideration.”

A family business, a community affair 

Gladis’ daughter Julia has also taken the gastronomy course, which has helped her tremendously. Now Gladis works with her daughter and mother in the industry! Some folks have become drivers, better cooks, and are more knowledgeable on how to feed their own families with more nutritious options.

Service workers are now running a safer, more efficient way of preparing food. Gladis believes that the certification program is a big contributor to that process.

“The certification helped us form a co-op,” says Gladis, “The Association of Services of Cleaning and Nourishment is the name we decided on. There used to be a lot of accidents in the kitchens. Local mothers like myself started helping with the cooking and now that we are certified we have the ability to help others find jobs and take care of their families. We are eternally grateful for this opportunity.”