Community Servings, a nonprofit provider in Jamaica Plain of medically tailored meals and nutrition services to individuals and families living with critical and chronic illnesses, recently announced the expansion of its programs with the support of a $300,000 grant from The Boston Foundation.
The Teaching Kitchen program will now hold six 12-week courses for up to 72 trainees per year, an increase from four sessions per year. The free, hands-on training takes place in Community Servings’ new Learning Kitchen, created as part of the organization’s recently completed $25 million renovation and expansion project. As they learn food preparation and cooking skills, trainees also help Community Servings’ culinary staff prepare medically tailored meals that are delivered daily to clients.
“When our 45th Teaching Kitchen class graduates in February, we’ll have trained more than 400 individuals who turned to Community Servings because they were interested in careers in the food service industry but faced barriers to full-time employment,” said David B. Waters, CEO of Community Servings. “Additionally, the generous grant we received from The Boston Foundation will help fund the expansion of our kitchen volunteer program. Thanks to the foundation’s support, we can now accommodate volunteers of all ages and abilities in our new universally accessible Volunteer Kitchen.”
The Teaching Kitchen program – led by program manager Allison Sequeira and chef instructor Jess Asbún – includes food safety and sanitation training, and instructions in knife skills, cooking techniques and nutrition. It includes field trips to other kitchens, including at Boston restaurants, and demonstrations by guest chefs.
“At Community Servings, we believe that ‘food heals’” said Asbún. “Our Teaching Kitchen program takes that philosophy one step further by supporting people who need a fresh start or a second chance. When trainees work with us in the kitchen, they regain their confidence and develop a stronger sense of self-worth. They also experience what it feels like to do something for those who are less fortunate.”
The Teaching Kitchen program supports individuals who may have limited formal education or those who are recovering from substance use, experiencing homelessness or periodic unemployment, or returning to the workforce after incarceration. Instructors prepare trainees to take the ServSafe certification exam for food service professionals, provide resumé writing assistance, and further support trainees by teaching valuable life skills. Upon graduation, the Teaching Kitchen program also provides trainees with job placement and job retention assistance for one year. Last year, more than 80 percent of graduates obtained gainful employment in the food service industry.
In addition to supporting the Teaching Kitchen and volunteer programs, The Boston Foundation’s grant three-year, $300,000 grant to Community Servings will support the provision of home-delivered medically tailored meals and nutrition education to mobility-impaired individuals and families in Massachusetts.