September is Hunger Action Month. We work to address the two root causes of hunger: lack of income and lack of access to enough good food. The Culinary Job Training Program (CJTP) helps SQUASH hunger by teaching skills for self-sufficiency and income generation. Participants learn by cooking up to 2000 nutritious meals each week for children, families, and individuals in need. Friday , September 13th marked CJTP's 62nd graduation, as we celebrated the success and the journey of our three newest graduates: Kendra, Sharon, and John.
Despite life challenges, these three strong individuals persevered to make it through our intensive 11 week course that includes instruction in knife skills, equipment identification, and cooking terminology; hands-on cooking experience including cooking techniques, stocks, sauces, soups, salads, yeast breads, and quickbreads; ServSafe food safety and sanitation instruction, as well as life and employment skills, stress management, a sexual harassment seminar, and basic nutrition.
While gaining new skills and training under Training Chef Khaleel, Chef Terri, and our Social Worker Sharon, participants in the CJTP program not only prepare for a new career - they also help Inter-Faith Food Shuttle feed those in need, converting thousands of pounds of food weekly into hundreds of nutritious, well-balanced meals, which are then delivered to local soup kitchens and children's programs. In the words of the graduates:
Perseverance indeed was the word of the day at the celebration on Friday. Kendra, one of the graduates had actually begun the course last year, but she had fallen ill with pneumonia, had to be hospitalized, and was unable to complete the course. This year she returned, even more ready to learn - and on Friday, friends and family applauded and cheered as Chef Terri handed Kendra her certificate.
CJTP students come from all walks of life and background. As graduate Sharon said, "I'm proof that you're never too old to learn something new." IFFS's Culinary Job Training Program helps unemployed and underemployed individuals with life challenges do just that - learn a new skill for a new, self-sufficient future.
Each of the three graduates have interviews lined up - at Centerplate, Golden Corral, McGregor's Country Club, and the PNC Arena. Anyone in attendance can attest to the high quality of their work, as their final test in the program is the meal they prepare for the graduation luncheon. We can't wait to see them succeed!