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September 6, 2016

John Sandoval, attendant at mess hallThe Arc of San Diego, one of the largest service providers for children and adults with disabilities in San Diego County, finds employment for people with disabilities in a variety of positions and industries throughout the community. 

Thanks to a SDWP Customized Training grant awarded to The Arc of San Diego, 13 individuals with disabilities completed training to work full-time at the recruit mess hall at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) — just north of the airport — where boot camps take place for all recruits west of the Mississippi. Mess Hall 569 (also known as “big hall”) is the largest single mess hall in the Marine Corps, serving up to 15,000 meals — or three meals for 5,000 recruits — per day.

Hires from The Arc of San Diego performs a variety of duties in the mess hall, including serving food, managing the beverage and salad bars, washing the dishes, removing waste, and cleaning the dining areas and the building exterior. The training program resulted in 12 individuals being hired as mess attendants and one trainee hired as a cook by Sodexo, the company that performs all the cooking at the mess hall. The Arc of San Diego employs about 275 total employees at MCRD Food Services.

Matt Mouer, Director of Arc Community Employment Services, describes the training: “The SDWP-funded customized MCRD food service training allowed 13 individuals with a variety of significant disabilities to get individualized training to learn a broad base of food safety skills and prepared them to work in this unique food service environment.”

The trainees were referred from a variety of sources; two are from Deaf Community Services of San Diego, Inc., five are high school students from San Diego Unified transitioning to higher education, and three are disabled veterans.

Emmanuel Sanchez, one of the attendants who has been working at the mess hall over the past two and a half months, is one of the veterans — a Marine who worked in supplies from 2002 to 2008. The opportunity to work at the recruit depot is like being a part of the Marines again. “It feels like I’m taking care of my baby brothers,” he says.

Of the job, Sanchez says he is always staying active, never bored. “There is no busy work,” Sanchez says. “If someone doesn’t do their job, then other people’s jobs suffer.”

Sanchez works 36 hours a week over five or six days a week, earning overtime and benefits. He appreciates that this job is consistent and he says it is a great opportunity to pick up some people skills. With this and any future careers, he hopes to get back on his feet and save money for the future.

Customized Training is an SDWP program for employers that offsets up to 50% of the cost associated with training new or existing workers, best used when the employer wants to train more than one individual. For more information about Customized Training or to get started, please contact our Business Services Team at

Individual appearing in photograph is John Sandoval, another mess hall attendant.

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