Manchester, New Hampshire
By Brian Snyder
It’s all connected. The New Hampshire Food Bank serves food to people who need meals. The people getting the meals need job and life skills to get to the point that they don’t need meals assistance. Someone needs to make the meals. Enter the culinary job training program at the Food Bank. In addition to learning kitchen skills, the students produce meals for three of the agencies of the New Hampshire Food Bank. In 2012, the kitchen produced a staggering 97,823 meals.
For course teacher and chef Jayson McCarter, whose credentials include cooking at the White House under two different administrations, it’s about giving chances and opening doors. Along with an assistant chef and other staff, he has done that for over 250 people who have come through the program since it started in May 2008.
It’s all connected. Take apples as an example. The program received a huge bin of apples — 735 pounds, equaling about 625 pounds after coring by the students (a lot of chances to practice their newly learned knife skills, essential in any kitchen job). Add about 55 pounds of water, honey and cinnamon to get to 680 pounds, or 75 gallons, of cooked applesauce which is about 2400 half cup servings of applesauce for next year’s summer feeding program.
It’s all connected. Fritza Lemintelamy, an unemployed, single mother of six, needs a job. But she also dreams of opening a Haitian restaurant. So she and two of her children are students in the latest culinary job training program. It’s an eight-week investment, and a lot of time on her feet, in learning skills to get a job and – just maybe -her own restaurant. In 2011, 68% of the graduates of the program were employed six weeks after graduation.
Fritza and her six children are living without electricity at home; it was shut off after she was unable to keep up with the bills. So they shop for a dinner that doesn’t require cooking or refrigeration – sandwiches made by flashlight. And they pray. And count pennies by candlelight to put gas into the nearly empty tank of the family car. But she says her 18-year-old son Jonathan, who according to her has an attention deficit disorder, was terribly withdrawn before the course; now he is opening up. “Now he talks,” she says.