Turning Hunger into Hope

Turning Hunger into Hope

The Friendship House Cafe in Mount Vernon serves approximately 6000 delicious meals a month to anyone who is hungry, free of charge, no strings attached.

Some of the workers in the Cafe’s kitchen are apprentices in the Hunger to Hope program. The innovative 12-week program addresses unemployment and homelessness by training people to have a career in food service at no cost to them. They accomplish this by using true apprenticeship style training.

Each class is comprised of up to eight apprentices who volunteer at the Friendship House Cafe. Each apprentice learns important life skills and culinary skills that help to empower them to move forward in their life. The apprentices may be Friendship House Residents, or people who referred to the Hunger to Hope program.

At first, Chef Tom Hoffman, the Kitchen Manager, and Jerry Shackette, Hunger to Hope instructor and former hospitality management college professor, tried to use a class teaching process, but it just did not work. "People would be going through the classes and then something would happen in their life whether it be a family emergency or a chance to get a job interview. It would cause them to get behind and sometimes they would give up." Jerry shared with us.

They realized they needed to utilize an apprenticeship style teaching process. It has worked better than they could imagined it would and is exceeding their expectations! Also by learning culinary skills, the apprentices were able to practice important life skills such as consistently showing up on time which made them feel more confident about their ability to keep a job.

In the morning, Jerry and Tom will go over what they are going to be cooking for the day and how to cook it correctly. At the end of the day, Jerry will follow up with each of the apprentices. They will discuss how the day went, where they could improve and what skills they have mastered. By the end of the 12-week program, each apprentice will have mastered all of the skills on their checklist. The checklist includes essential skills such as how to properly cook rice and chicken.

After the apprentice has finished the program, they will have a Food Service Permit, ServSafe certification, a Food Handler's Permit, Bloodborne Pathogens Certification and CPR training.

“Our apprentices will have a leg up on the competition with their extensive list of certification,” Jerry mentioned in our interview. “Not many people have all of these certifications."

The Friendship House Cafe will serve as a reference on their resume. They will help the apprentices to create a resume and practice interviewing.  "Our apprentices will be able to point at their Hunger to Hope certificate and say, 'I know how to prepare food, handle myself in the kitchen and here is proof.'”

The Hunger to Hope program is currently training their fourth class, and they have heard from many of their graduates that they were able to find jobs as prep cooks thanks to the training they received.

If you believe in this type of real world approach to combatting homelessness and building up our community, please consider making a donation to this truly groundbreaking program. A micro-donation of just $10 a month would go a long way towards supporting your neighbors and community as a whole. http://www.skagitfriendshiphouse.org/donate-money.html