Across the Feeding America network, 33 food banks run programs we call community kitchens. These are culinary job-training programs that address hunger by providing economically disadvantaged adults with the job skills they need to achieve self-sufficiency.
Community kitchen students participate in a 10-16 week program, learning basic kitchen and cooking, food safety and job readiness skills. The programs are taught by food bank staff who include professional chefs, social workers and experts in adult education, and offer opportunities for guest chefs and other local professionals to share their talents and experiences with the students.
During their training, community kitchen students create meals to feed people in the community. Community kitchen meals are often served to children in after school and summer programs, or to adults and families in other food bank agencies. Other community kitchens create meals for local schools or home-bound seniors. Many community kitchens also include a catering program, expanding the educational opportunities for students while raising revenue to support their training activities.
Community kitchen graduates leave these programs ready for a career in the food service industry; finding jobs in restaurants, school cafeterias, hospital kitchens, corporate cafeterias and much more. Beyond getting that first job, graduates have the skills and knowledge to create well-balanced meals and assure a healthier future for their own families.
*Kim Prendergast is the consulting diabetes initiative project manager at Feeding America.