For the people, by the people – our CK² National Summit brought Catalyst Kitchens and Feeding America Community Kitchens organizations to present, share, and work together on solutions to benefit the community. With 172 people, 40 CK organizations, 29 Feeding America Community Kitchens, and 1 shared goal of training students for employment in the foodservice industry, the potential for growth was exponential.
The local flavor was strong in Winston-Salem and made its way to our plates by Summit hosts Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Carolina, specifically the Providence Culinary Training program. Providence provides a 13 week culinary training program that teaches within a community meals program for children and seniors, a thriving catering business, and dining-for-cause restaurants for a holistic training experience. Summit attendees enjoyed meals from Providence all three nights including a 4 course catered dinner and a family meal under the stars.
Sessions were organized into three tracks: supporting the foodservice operations with smart business practices, student programming and case management, and fund development for program support. Here are some highlights from the CK² National Summit.
How to Recruit during Low Unemployment
Unemployment is close to 4% on a national scale and is an all time low for modern times. As a result, our members have struggled to recruit new students into their programs. While this may be a positive result of low employment and a product of potential students finding work, it is more likely that potential students are finding low wage positions with little opportunity for wage progression. Recruitment strategies take on many different forms and include creating strong referral partners with local community service providers and providing incentives to potential students, such as transportation vouchers and childcare support. Members discussed how the current state of the economy has changed their recruitment strategies to emphasize the potential for growth after the program. A job is for now but a career is forever – we discussed ways to advertise programming as a long term solution for students rather than a quick fix.
Support Financial Literacy for Students
Financial health can determine many aspects of life – from a living arrangement to a job, it is crucial for students to understand how to properly save and plan their finances to fund their next steps in life. Bank of America taught summit participants how to teach students about the importance of financial responsibility and how to manage their savings property. Employment is the model’s short term goal – our long term goal is self sufficiency, where healthy finances and responsible spending are paramount. Bank of America’s session on teaching students financial literacy gave helpful tools to set students up for success in the long term.
The Social Return on Investment in Foodservice Training
The business world talks about Return on Investment (ROI) all the time – how much do you get out of the money you spend. Nonprofits think of ROI in a similar way but with a social focus – is our work making a difference in society? Some examples are lower incarceration rates, decreasing homeless populations, or increasing public access to healthcare services. In our network’s case, are foodservice training programs reducing the unemployment rate in the local community? Social Return on Investment, or SROI, is a major topic for nonprofit fundraisers. Representatives from DC Central Kitchens, Paul’s Place, and FareStart make the case on how their programs use their outcomes data to show the effectiveness of their programs.
Taking It to the Next Level – Advanced Training Programs
The network’s number one goal is self sufficiency – we want all of the students who leave our program doors to obtain employment, retain their positions, and receive a living wage or higher to find independent housing and financial stability. Catalyst Kitchens training programs are focused on getting students into the first job after long gaps of employment, specifically jobs that have accessible pathways to higher positions. We challenge ourselves to take the next step in advanced training models to focus on the population post-program as most workplaces suffer in their training abilities and do not have the capacity to train workers into new, higher paying roles.
Advanced training models are on the rise among the network to provide additional career development for trainees. Liberty’s Kitchen in New Orleans has incorporated their trainees into all aspect of business to support their long term goals and promote entrepreneurship among their students. FareStart’s new apprenticeship program for back of house and front of house that trains through a manager level, and TCK-Providence, Summit host, has a post program advanced training option that teaches students how to become hospitality leaders and supervisors.
A New Face of Poverty: Feeding an Aging Population
“This is an uncomfortable reality – if you want to continue living, you will get old” said Amory James from Feedmore in Central Virginia, a major provider of senior meals through their Meals on Wheels program. As national networks, it is our responsibility as social services providers to stay one step ahead of poverty in America. We must know what populations have the greatest need and create services for these populations – today, this is vulnerable seniors aging out of the workforce. More baby boomers are retiring every day, increasing the burden of support on the current workforce and food service providers. Innovative solutions to this growing populations’ needs are prominent in the network. One major highlight from this session came from Alison Sequeria representing Community Servings in Boston, MA and their medically tailored meals system that tailors meals based on their recipient’s medical conditions and dietary needs. This program has seen major success with a 16% net reduction in the average monthly healthcare costs for their clients.
Community Servings’ wellness chart of health requirements used to design their meals programs to specifically accommodate their client’s dietary needs.
Special Guest: A Private Screening of Oscar-Nominated Documentary Knife Skills
The stories behind culinary training programs stay confined to the kitchen or classroom without the proper spotlight to show the powerful transformation of students from the beginning of the program to the end. The Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute has brought their student’s stories to the public through their Oscar-nominated documentary Knife Skills, a story of their 6 month fine dining program in Cleveland, Ohio. The story follows students through their experiences in the program and how the program began through the eyes of founder and CEO Brandon Chrostowski. Brandon spoke to the group about the expansive support services provided during the program and about exciting upcoming expansions for Edwins. If you haven’t already, watch now to hear the stories of trainees turning their life around with the power of hard work and culinary training.
We cannot combat the many intertwining causes poverty and homelessness in silos, we will only make real change together. Our work at Catalyst Kitchens is based on the principle of community and this Summit was no exception. Catalyst Kitchens and Feeding America Community Kitchen members are proud to unite in our work to end homelessness through employment. As said by Robert Egger, founder of DC Central Kitchen and L.A. Kitchen, we need “leaders who are daring enough to charge out and meet the future – this is what sets Catalyst Kitchens members apart, the sense that ‘we are going to try.'” Thank you to all the participants and attendees, and thank you to everyone who works with our Catalyst Kitchens network and Feeding America Community Kitchens who advocate for their students every day.