Investment banker turned community hero: Meet the Glasgow investment banker who ditched his career to focus on fighting food poverty

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The investment banker felt unfulfilled in his career, and pivoted his life to supporting people struggling with food poverty in Glasgow

This is the story of a Glasgow investment banker who left the financial world behind to support people in the city who can't afford to feed themselves - this is the story of Dale Todd.

The organisation was founded two years ago with the aim of helping reduce food poverty in one of Scotland’s most deprived areas. In the time since, award-winning social enterprise the Courtyard Pantry has served thousands of meals across the city.

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The organisation was born out of an existing community project, operated by the ground-breaking mental health charity Flourish House. Every penny it makes is reinvested in projects to help the community it serves  – it helps more than 100 people each week and has distributed more than £400,000 worth of food since launch. 

It could all have been very different, however, had founder and former investment banker Dale Todd not decided on a dramatic change in career in 2018 fuelled by a desire to do good.

“I worked for a global investment bank for over a decade, in London and laterally in Glasgow, which was very high pressure and tense but also well paid,” said Todd.

“I was promoted to Vice President and I remember feeling that I was reaching the end of the road – I realised it wasn’t the right fit for me and harboured ambitions to work for a third-sector organisation, in a job with purpose and meaning beyond making money.

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“It’s very difficult when you’re working for a huge multinational to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. It was hard to connect what I was doing. The generosity of my teammates overwhelmed me, and I could see the power of a community coming together. And that sparked something in me.”

Despite Todd learning almost everything there was to know in the corporate world, he found it impossible to land a senior job with a charity due to a lack of third sector experience. It meant he had to start at the beginning with Flourish House, learning essential lessons that would form the foundation of his own charity.

He founded Courtyard Pantry Enterprise in April 2022, combining his corporate and new third sector experience to drive the organisation’s mission to use food as a vehicle for change by creating secure, well-paid jobs and training opportunities and through the provision of good quality food at low cost to the local community via their food pantry.

Last year, Courtyard Pantry’s café space, in Wester Common Drive, Possilpark, started hosting a series of free community meals. The forward-thinking enterprise also launched citywide catering deliveries with a new electric quadricycle.

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“I firmly believe social enterprises and cooperatives are a big part of our future in terms of economic development, pre-distribution and redistribution of wealth,” Todd said.

“The current system is not working for the majority of people – economic growth must be ecologically and socially sustainable, and social enterprise feels to me the way forward. I’d encourage more people in financial services to come over and share expertise, and overall do good.

“When I joined the third sector, I came in at an entry level and had to start again. But working for a global investment bank taught me so much about how to run an organisation, and I couldn’t have wished for better education on managing people and costs, having a strategy and vision of what we want to achieve. Both sectors have a lot to learn from each other and should learn to tap into the talent on each side.” 

Amongst the more than 1,500 people the social enterprise has helped is Yusuf Abdulkareem, a student who moved to Glasgow from Nigeria to complete an MBA at Glasgow Caledonian University, who started as a volunteer at the social enterprise, and now manages the pantry. 

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Yusuf Abdulkareem gained employment with Dale Todd's Courtyard Pantry after struggling to find a career outside of 0 hour contracts and casual workYusuf Abdulkareem gained employment with Dale Todd's Courtyard Pantry after struggling to find a career outside of 0 hour contracts and casual work
Yusuf Abdulkareem gained employment with Dale Todd's Courtyard Pantry after struggling to find a career outside of 0 hour contracts and casual work

On moving to the UK, Yusuf found it difficult to find work beyond minimum wage or zero-hours positions – that didn’t reflect his abilities or experience – and has hailed the opportunities provided by the Courtyard Pantry. 

He said: “Working and volunteering at Courtyard Pantry gave me a soft-landing into UK society – I’m comfortable here because I got such a good introduction, and that helped me integrate. 

“The environment here makes people realise their full potential. It’s a space that lets people be what they want to be, and they have space to grow.

“It’s a great place to work, there’s this friendly environment and everyone wants to help each other. What motivates us is the community, it brings us together. The work we do brings joy to people, and you can see that.” 

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Dale has hopes that people across Glasgow will visit the café and use Courtyard Pantry services to help fund more vital community work. 

“We produce and serve great quality food, but also a significant social impact. We have an amazing team, chefs supported by our employees that are drawn from different backgrounds and have faced various barriers to employment. 

“We put every penny we make back into the services we offer that help support some of the most vulnerable people in Glasgow. However, it’s not just about providing food and support in the short term. The employment opportunities we provide give people a chance to climb out of poverty, but also to contribute to their community and that’s a big motivator for our employees. The more people use our services, the bigger the impact we can make.” 

Paul Sweeney is an MSP for the Glasgow Region and long-term trustee of Courtyard Pantry Enterprise. He explained how Courtyard Pantry Enterprise was smashing the perceptions of social enterprises, and making a significant difference in one of Glasgow’s most deprived areas. 

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He said: “The essence of the pantry is moving away from the shame and indignity of the food bank and seeking charity to build up community resilience and a way to shop ethically as well as affordably. 

“It’s about ultimately seeding community wealth, and it’s the logical thing to do to support the circular economy, the climate crisis, and to show solidarity with your neighbours.

“We often see social enterprises treated as if they’re the Cinderella of entrepreneurism. That they’re to be pitied, grant dependent, and financially unsustainable. But they are about more than that – building an alternative economy, earning profits and reinvesting them locally. 

“Supporting the catering service or visiting Toshie’s café means reinvesting profits back into the community to support people. You’re going for excellent food, but it’s run for the benefit of the community. 

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“Courtyard Pantry operates in one of the poorest communities in Scotland, and whilst there’s a lot of positive regeneration going on the underlying economic issue is that there are higher levels of unemployment and poverty. 

“Unemployment isn’t just a personal tragedy, it’s a societal ill that we need to solve.” “Our charitable purpose is to lift people out of poverty, and one way we do that is providing well paid, secure jobs,” Todd added. “However, our inspiration is to become a local anchor organisation – a real wealth generator within the community, and we’re well on the road to achieving it.” 

To enquire about Courtyard Pantry’s catering service, visit their website. You can also support through donations or fundraising, here.

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