Kitchens For Good: Stirring up “Food As Medicine”
Our health and our personal wellbeing starts in our homes, schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and communities. We know that taking care of ourselves by eating well and staying active, not smoking, getting the recommended screening tests, and seeing a doctor when we are sick all influence our health. But our health and wellbeing are also determined in a much greater part by access to social and economic opportunities; the resources and support available in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities; the quality of our schooling; the safety of our workplaces; the cleanliness of our water, food, and air; and the nature of our social interactions and relationships.
When a young man grows up in a community with only gang members as role models, when a young woman and her mother are abused by their husbands and fathers, when a young father is addicted to drugs and fails to be the role model to his son that he wished he could be, when one’s self worth is defined only by prior actions and poor choices, and with no clear path forward---this is where “Project Launch”, a culinary apprenticeship program at Kitchens For Good (KFG) has come in to change lives, and enhance personal and community wellbeing---using food as medicine, nourishing both the body and the soul. Food is a common denominator, a leveling force; and with proper training and hard work, it can provide an economic opportunity to build not just a job, but a career.
Attending the Class 11 graduation ceremony and celebration at KFG was the equivalent of being enveloped with the “attitude of gratitude” described by Chuck Samuelson, KFG’s founder and president; it was a humbling and powerful experience. The “attitude” in the room, shared by the alumni and graduates, was an unfolding of personal experience and growth that brought good people out of bad circumstances and cycles of addiction, abuse, and incarceration. The stewards of the journey are the staff, chefs, and leadership at KFG, and the returning alumni, who continue to demonstrate genuine caring, communication, motivation, and support. Graduates are encouraged to have persistence and embrace hard work, to set goals, have dreams, build trust, and follow through---and to help each other via positive social interaction and relationships going forward.
“We are teaching knife skills and life skills.”
KFG’s culinary apprenticeship program prepares unemployed individuals to thrive in careers in the food-service industry and beyond. The intensive 12-week training programs take a “whole-person” approach to vocational training, incorporating culinary arts, nutrition education, interpersonal skills, resume writing, and financial literacy. Students practice their culinary skills and give back to the community during classes by preparing healthy meals that are distributed to hunger relief agencies.
“At about 4-5 weeks into the program, we start to see a transformation in student demeanor to “I got this” - “I can do this” - “I see the path forward” - “I got this!”
KFG’s mission is to break the cycles of food waste, poverty, and hunger through innovative programs in workforce training, healthy meal production, and social enterprise. KFG not only operates community kitchens that provide culinary job training for the unemployed, but also simultaneously transforms cosmetically imperfect produce into nutritious meals for the hungry. In addition to tackling issues of food waste, hunger and unemployment, KFG ensures is own financial sustainability through its social enterprise catering, which generates revenue to support programs and creates on the job training opportunities for culinary students.
San Diego Food System Alliance is collaborating to raise awareness about food waste reduction and recovery. Visit Save The Food San Diego.
Post by Barbara Hamilton, Director of Strategic Initiatives