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Viewpoint: Food Bank’s culinary training changes lives

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Patricia Beebe Guest Columnist

Patricia Beebe
Guest Columnist

We’re working to put ourselves out of business.

Yes, intentionally out of business – an unheard-of concept in the business world.

But for the team at the Food Bank of Delaware, we envision a community where food banks and food pantries are no longer needed.

To help us achieve our vision of a community free of hunger, we know that Delawareans need access to opportunities for job training and employment. Our solution to this is The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware.

The Culinary School, located in Newark and Milford, is our 14-week training program for adults who are unemployed, underemployed, in career transition or reentering society from the criminal justice system.

Our school has been in existence since 2002, and we are the only food bank in the nation with two culinary training programs. Since its inception, more than 450 students have successfully completed the training program.

The mission of The Culinary School is two-fold. First, students are taught skills that are highly desirable to employers in the food service industry. Second, these newly developed skills have the potential to lead to jobs that provide job security and economic sustainability.

Many of our alumni have faced hardships such as incarceration or substance abuse. Our program empowers people to rise above these hardships by providing resources and skills they need to make a living while enacting constructive methods of expressing their passion.

We have especially seen great success in providing culinary training to those who have been previously incarcerated. The culinary industry in itself has been very forgiving of people’s backgrounds and helps people who are not afraid of hard work to excel in an environment that promotes creativity.

Observing our graduates’ successes and learning from their stories demonstrates that a multitude of individuals within the current correctional facility environment have unrealized potential. They are motivated and committed to place themselves in an opportunity to learn and grow for self-improvement and to support their families, yet the lack of a secure support system upon re-entering holds them back from realizing that potential.

By offering culinary training, we are not only looking into the eyes of an individual needing food assistance today, but we see a vision of what they’ll look like tomorrow, taking steps towards a long-term, sustainable career. It costs $36,000 per year to keep someone incarcerated in Delaware. Our program costs $5,700 per student, and graduates leave with increased opportunities to establish a career, pay taxes, purchase a home – this supports our local economy. It is good business sense.

Until our services are no longer needed, we will continue to develop innovative solutions to meet not only Delawareans immediate needs, but empower them to become self-sufficient.

To learn how you can get involved, visit www.fbd.org.  

Patricia Beebe is president and CEO of the Food Bank of Delaware.

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