After four sessions of the program…70 percent of the graduates have jobs in the food service business.
Started in 2013, End Hunger’s food and culinary program offers a free eight-week jobs training course to 15 people who are at-risk or are low-income people who need some life coaching. The training program is sponsored by the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, PNC Bank and Chesapeake Church in Huntingtown, where the training takes place. They pay for tuition, uniforms and books for each student. After four sessions of the program (a fifth one started in March 2015), 70 percent of the graduates have jobs in the food service business.
Created with the vision of bringing quality and sustainable employment opportunities to underemployed or unemployed residents of Calvert County, the program offers the practical training needed for successful re-entry into the workforce. Students must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, and have a valid driver’s license or access to reliable transportation. Graduates receive a ServSafe National Restaurant Association Certification, free career placement assistance and their own set of knives.
Each class is different, says Miller, and presents different challenges depending on the needs and personalities of the students. The biggest thing Miller and the five other employees have had to learn is to be flexible. Many of the students have an “aha” moment after dealing with Caroline Allie, the program instructor, in their culinary training. Miller says Allie’s “fantastic with them. She’s stern, but someone they realize they can rely on. She only wants to make them better. She teaches them the value of everything.”
What has pleased all involved is how appreciative the students are. A couple of students speak at each graduation, telling of their journeys. One student had been a food pantry client for six years, relying on it to make ends meet over and above the pop-up jobs where he worked. He’s now working behind the meat counter, serving customers at Nick’s of Calvert in Prince Frederick.
Besides the training program, End Hunger in Calvert County collects and distributes food to partner food pantries throughout the county, in addition to offering various programs designed to help people move from dependency to self-sufficiency.
The easiest way to help the organization is to donate funds, knowing that “when you give where you live, it stays where you live.” Miller says that their purchasing power buys 1,000 pounds of food for $100. And when you make purchases at one of nearly two dozen restaurants and shops, you’re supporting that business’s participation in the food and culinary training program, which can be as a guest instructor, a home for an internship, or a place of employment for one or more graduates. They include: Anne Arundel Medical Center, Asbury Solomons, Blondie’s Baking Company, Countryside Grille and Deli, Dream Weaver Cafe & Catering, Filomenas, The Greene Turtle, Herrington Harbor/Honey’s Harvest, Jerry’s Place, JT’s Kitchen, Maryland Country Caterers, Nick’s of Calvert, No Thyme to Cook, Outback Steakhouse, Patrice and Associates, Rod ‘N’ Reel, Smoky Joe’s Grill, Solomons Pearl Cafe, South County Cafe, Sweet Sue’s Bake Shop, and most recently Chessie’s Deli Subs and Pizza.
Volunteers are also needed. End Hunger’s fundraising is event-driven, with such events as a Bike Ride (routes of 16 miles to a metric century, and a new-rider route, held in late April); a Dragon Boat Festival (an annual late-June family day in North Beach, free to attend and $2,000 per boat); Foodstock (August, in Prince Frederick); and a Live Out Loud Obstacle Run (September, in Huntingtown).
If you would like to help End Hunger in Calvert County or know someone who could benefit from the training program, please call 410-257-5672 or visit the website at www.endhungercalvert.org.