NEWS // June 9, 2019

Kitchen For Goods 12 Week Culinary Program Accepts People From All Backgrounds

The 100 students in Kitchens for Good's 12-week culinary apprenticeship program don't have the kind of prior work experience or resumes you'd expect to find in a culinary school. Many of them don't have resumes at all—except those on file at police stations and jails around the country. But in Kitchen for Good's San Diego-based Project Launch program, a criminal record doesn't matter: all that matters is a desire to stay clean, hold down a job and help the nonprofit tackle issues of food waste, hunger and poverty in the community.

"Our culinary job training program serves men and women transitioning out of homelessness, foster care and incarceration," says Aviva Paley, co-founder and senior director at Kitchens for Good. "It's estimated that about 70 percent of formerly incarcerated people are unemployed. Of the 100 students we train per year, we have about an 87 percent success rate of our graduates remaining employed in the culinary and hospitality industry."

That 87 percent success rate is an important metric. The students in the Project Launch program come from many different backgrounds. But they all know this: It's hard to find a job when you get out of prison.

"Once you're in the system, it's hard to get out of it. It's a revolving door," says James Sperry, a graduate of the program. "It was so hard for me to find a job, because my background would kill any chance I had. And that's what would lead me back to selling drugs, because it's a quick buck and I had to support myself."

It was the same for fellow graduate Melinda Rodriguez, who was in and out of prison for a decade due to her drug addiction.

"I've been to job interviews where, as soon as you tell them you've been incarcerated, that's it: interview over," she says. "They look down on us. They think of us as someone they don't want to take a chance on."