Friday, we celebrated three proud graduates of Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Culinary Job Training Program (CJTP), our 59th class: Patrick, Larry, and Swapna. These hard-working and dedicated students made it through the 11 week intensive training course and are now prepared for meaningful employment in the food industry.
They’ve mastered knife skills, equipment identification, and cooking terminology. They’ve received hands-on cooking experience under the tutelage of professional Chefs Terri and Will - including cooking techniques, learning how to make stocks, sauces, soups, salads, yeast bread, and quickbreads. They are ServSafe food safety and sanitation certified! But not only have they received the training necessary for obtaining a culinary job and sustaining themselves, but they also now have the skills to maintain that job with professional work habits. Our social worker Sharon Mitchell trains CJTP students in life skills - they learn how to get along with co-workers and how to balance life outside the kitchen. Through the program, CJTP students complete trainings in life and employment skills, stress management, a sexual harassment seminar with InterAct, and a basic nutrition course.
Sharon described this class of three graduates as not a talkative bunch, nicknaming them ‘The Quiet Storm”: humble in presence, sincere, determined, on-point, and on their job every day with very high character and very high standards for themselves.
Their final test? The food at the graduation luncheon. By the enthusiastic applause resounding throughout the room, I'd say they passed. The menu for the day included seafood skewers, lemon grilled chicken, herb-roasted potatoes, veggies fresh from the IFFS farms, and jackfruit and rice stuffed peppers, with a fresh garden salad, cut fruit, and rolls to boot. For dessert, the graduates had prepared a delicious zucchini and chocolate cake! After all, the Food Shuttle is all about nutrition (although with how decadent it tasted, you could have fooled me)!
During their time at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, they have helped feed their community, converting thousands of pounds of food from a variety of donors into nutritious, well-balanced meals, which are then delivered to local soup kitchens, shelters, children’s programs that feed those in need. CJTP students contribute to increasing local food access and reducing waste through food stabilization – they take fresh produce into our commercial kitchen, cook it into nutritious meals, and blast freeze it so that food with a limited shelf life will be available months later.
But graduation day is not about IFFS, it’s about these students, what they have accomplished, and what they have overcome. Thirteen students began this course 11 weeks ago, but these are the 3 who persevered and made it through to the very end. For graduation, the students can invite anyone they'd like to support them, and many share emotional moments with family and friends recalling the journey that took to be standing there holding that certificate.
Patrick's words of thanks:
Also present are other chefs and community workers who have hosted trainings or helped the students along their path in some way, as well as IFFS staff and board members. Eugene Weeks of the Raleigh City Council even took time out of his day to support and celebrate these new graduates and to congratulate them on behalf of the mayor and the city council.
We work with human services agencies to recruit unemployed and underemployed individuals with severe life challenges. Some of our students have little education, some have never held a steady job, some are recovering addicts, some are homeless, some are leaving abusive relationships. All of them deserve an opportunity to create better lives for themselves and their families. We help them realize their potential. These students will now work with our job coach, Sue Ramey, to find and maintain employment, making sure they have the resources they need to succeed. One of them already has a job secured, and the other two will very likely be working by next week. Congratulations to Larry, Patrick, and Swapna!