If I was ever forced to pick a new career, I would probably choose to be a chef. Today’s organization is helping people realize their dream of working in the food industry.
In 1988, David Lee, a chef in Seattle, Washington, saw a need to serve the local homeless with culturally appropriate and nutritious food, so he started a for-profit business called Common Meals. Through this work he recognized that food was a powerful way to help individuals transform their lives, so he transformed his company into a 501c3 nonprofit job training program named FareStart in 1992.
The mission of FareStart is to provide a community that transforms lives by empowering homeless and disadvantaged men, women, and families to achieve self-sufficiency through life skills, job training and employment in the food service industry.
Their adult culinary program is a comprehensive 16 week program that builds a strong foundation and support system by working with students individually. The program combines hands on food service training and classroom instruction along with individual case management and job placement services.
The program is free and allows students to give back to the community by preparing food that is delivered to homeless shelters and low income daycare centers.
Homeless and disadvantaged men and women in the program are prepared for jobs in the restaurant and hospitality industry after completion of the program. Today the program serves more than 750 individuals a year with over 80% of the program graduates securing living wage employment in the food service or hospitality industry.
In 2003, FareStart added a Barista Training and Education Program (in collaboration with YouthCare) to provide at-risk youth on the job training, life skills classes, and counseling to youth between the ages of 16 and 23. Students provided an opportunity to build a better future through the program. In 2011, 52 youth graduated from the program and 80% secured employment or went back to school.
Over the past 20 years, nearly 6,000 people have found opportunities to transform their lives through the FareStart program. At the same time they have served over five million meals to disadvantaged men, women, and children. You can read stories of some of the program’s graduates here. In 2011, FareStart launched Catalyst Kitchens to bring the success of FareStart to communities around the country.
FareStart has a restaurant, café, and catering business that helps support the adult culinary programs. The restaurant serves lunch Monday through Friday and has a guest chef night on Thursday nights. The lunch service provides a training opportunity for students to work in a kitchen serving real customers. The Thursday night meals give the students an opportunity to work directly with a local chef to create a gourmet three course meal. The FareStart Café is an on the job training site for the Youth Barista Training and Education Program. They offer a full selection of espresso drinks as well as pastries, soups, salads and sandwiches. The revenue from these businesses are used to fund the training programs.
How can you help?
- If you live near Seattle, you can visit their restaurant or café or hire their catering service. In addition, you can support the companies who have hired graduates of the program or have supported the organization in other ways.
- FareStart also has a variety of volunteer opportunities including shelter meal delivery, counseling, study hall tutoring, and mock interviewing, among other opportunities. You can find all the opportunities and an application form on their website.
- Anyone can make a financial or in-kind donation. You can find donation opportunities as well as their current wish list on their website.
- If you are not in the Seattle area, take a look at the Catalyst Kitchens website to find a similar program near you.