Scott and Ally Svenson, co-founders of MOD Pizza

MOD Pizza
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MOD Pizza, National Restaurant Association Create Jobs for Formerly Incarcerated

The HOPES program aims to reduce recidivism by focusing on supportive job placement, retention and career advancement

  • Starting this month, MOD and the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation will partner to create new jobs and employment training for justice-involved young adults.
  • Services include ServSafe educational support, temporary housing assistance, substance abuse counseling and support for individuals working on their high school diploma.

 Related: How MOD Pizza became one of the country’s fastest-growing restaurant chains

MOD Pizza, the Seattle-based fast-casual chain founded by Scott and Ally Svenson, has joined forces with the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation (NRAEF) to create job opportunities and training for young people re-entering society after serving prison sentences.

The NRAEF’s HOPES Program (Hospitality Opportunities for People (Re)Entering Society) is a collaboration between businesses, state restaurant associations and community-based organizations that provides pathways to success for justice-involved individuals looking for a new start. The partnership launches this month in Chicago-area MOD Pizza locations, with plans for a nationwide rollout later this year.

Of the 650,000 people who exit the justice system each year, 52% will be reincarcerated within three years if they lack stable employment, according to a press release from MOD Pizza. Through a holistic approach, the HOPES program aims to reduce recidivism by focusing on supportive job placement, retention and career advancement.

The wrap-around services provided by the program include:

  • Personalized case management
  • ServSafe educational support and certificate
  • Legal support
  • Health services
  • Mental health counseling
  • Educational support to complete high school degree
  • Temporary housing assistance
  • Transportation assistance
  • Substance abuse counseling

Related: MOD Pizza commits to hiring more employees with autism and differing abilities

“Ten years ago, when MOD opened their second store in Seattle, they gave me a second chance,” said Kory Harp, MOD Pizza’s program manager of opportunity employment. “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 practices opportunity employment across its entire system, providing jobs to individuals who face barriers, including opportunity youth (18-24 year-olds not working or in school); individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities; and those who were previously justice-involved.

“Over the years, we have seen first-hand 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 for MOD Pizza. “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.”

“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, the NRAEF’s vice president of program impact. “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.”

Related: MOD Pizza helping employees earn their high school diplomas

MOD has more than 8,300 company employees and offers industry-leading benefits, mentorship and training opportunities. MOD also created the Bridge Fund, which provides financial support for Squad members during times of need. To date, MOD has provided over $1.5 million in grants to help employees in crisis.

For its efforts to create an inspired place to work, MOD is often recognized as a progressive employer, including being named by Fortune to its “Change the World” list and as a “Best Workplace” in several categories.