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Smart Serve Ontario Launches Campaign to provide essential and free mental health services to over 550,000 active Smart Serve certificate holders

By May 8, 2024June 11th, 2024No Comments

Smart Serve Ontario partners with Not 9 to 5 and GreenShield to address the mental health crisis in the hospitality industry.

Today, Smart Serve Ontario, a registered charity dedicated to responsible liquor sales and service practices, is taking a crucial step towards improving mental health in the hospitality industry with the launch of its new campaign “Smart Serve Cares.” Delivered in partnership with Not 9 to 5, a non-profit that advocates for the mental health of hospitality workers, and GreenShield, Canada’s only national non-profit health and benefits company, the program will provide free mental health services and education to individuals holding an active Smart Serve certificate.

Canada’s food service industry, a vital sector employing nearly 22 million Canadians, is facing a post-pandemic strain. With many businesses operating at a loss and burdened by debt, the well-being of hospitality workers, often facing high burnout rates, is at risk. The timely initiative aims to bring awareness to the significant mental health and substance use challenges faced by those working in hospitality and offer meaningful support to hospitality professionals.

“The hospitality industry is at a critical juncture,” said Gyan Chandra, Board Chair, Smart Serve Ontario. “The industry has faced unrelenting pressure, triggering a concerning rise in mental health and substance use challenges among hospitality workers. By partnering with innovative non-profit organizations like Not 9 to 5 and GreenShield, we are strategically connecting leading experts in both the hospitality and health sectors to deliver critical resources and solutions to an industry in dire need of support. Together, we can create meaningful change and build a more resilient hospitality workforce.”

Research conducted by Not 9 to 5 paints a stark picture – a staggering 87 per cent of front-line food and beverage staff report experiencing burnout, with depression and anxiety affecting 77 per cent and 84 per cent, respectively. Despite these alarming figures, only 38 per cent seek professional help, often citing financial constraints as a major roadblock.

The Smart Serve Cares campaign aims to bridge this gap by offering Smart Serve certificate holders a comprehensive suite of mental health resources, including:
  • 3 hours of free virtual mental health counselling with a therapist that best-suits your needs provided by GreenShield Health, the health services division of GreenShield.
  • Online access to GreenShield’s self-guided Digital CBT, a program that uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and interactive learning modules to help people with anxiety and depression achieve their wellness goals.
  • Unlimited access to online resources, articles and educational materials from health experts via GreenShield+, GreenShield’s integrated digital health and benefits platform.

“Psychologically safe workplaces support a productive workforce. Investing in hospitality mental health programs benefits staff, employers, and clients; and ultimately, costs less than doing nothing. Participation in these programs fosters a healthier, more effective workplace and improves the industry’s overall well-being and growth,” says Hassel Aviles, Executive Director, Not 9 to 5. “With Smart Serve Cares, the industry now has access to resources at no cost to hospitality employers and employees alike.”

Smart Serve certificate holders will also gain access to Not 9 to 5’s transformative online hospitality workplace mental health certification, CNECTed. This self-guided certification program equips participants with skills and education on psychological safety, harm reduction practices and leadership, specifically designed to address the unique mental health and substance use challenges faced within the hospitality industry.

“Prioritizing mental well-being in the workplace is essential to unlocking the full potential of Canada’s workforce,” says Joe Blomeley, Executive Vice President, Head of GreenShield Health & Enterprise Growth at GreenShield. “Today, many hospitality workers don’t have the resources or employer coverage to meet their mental health needs. Our social mission is to enable better health for all by providing more equitable access to care. Through this powerful partnership, we’re able to fill this gap by providing hospitality workers across the province with free access to the mental health support they deserve.”

The Smart Serve Cares campaign officially kicks off in May 2024. This initiative aims to empower hospitality workers to prioritize their mental well-being with tools and resources aimed at navigating the challenges the sector faces. To learn more visit

About Smart Serve Ontario

Smart Serve Ontario is a registered charity dedicated to supporting the hospitality industry since 1995. Smart Serve is the only responsible alcohol beverage sales and service training program recognized by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). Smart Serve is dedicated to developing and delivering training to all individuals who sell, serve, handle or deliver alcohol in the Province of Ontario.

About Not 9 to 5

Not 9 to 5, a non-profit global leader in mental health education and advocacy for the hospitality and culinary sector, empowers industry professionals with practical skills and tools to create meaningful community change. Its vision is to achieve physical and psychological safety for everyone in the hospitality and culinary workforce. Not 9 to 5 aims to normalize workplace mental health training, access to accommodations and healthcare benefits, community care support and resources for all.

About GreenShield

GreenShield is an integrated health and benefits organization and the first organization in Canada to operate as a payer-provider — offering insurance, administering benefits, and paying claims as a ‘payer’ while offering health services such as mental health, pharmacy, chronic disease management, and telemedicine services as a ‘provider.’ Integrating both sides of the payer-provider equation enables GreenShield to simplify access to care, remove administrative barriers, and improve health outcomes for its customers. GreenShield is uniquely structured as a non-profit social enterprise that reinvests its earnings and redeploys its services to support equity-seeking Canadian communities via its social impact brand, GreenShield Cares. The company’s overarching goal is to generate $75 million of social impact investments to improve the lives of at least 1 million Canadians by 2025, focusing on mental health, oral health, essential medicines, and chronic disease management. As the industry’s noble challenger, GreenShield continues to innovate, evolving its offerings and services to deepen its purpose of championing better health for all.