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July 11, 2016

Kitchens for Good (KFG) has been cooking up great food and even greater opportunity for San Diegans since September 2015 by breaking the cycles of food waste, poverty and hunger through innovative programs in workforce training, healthy food production and social enterprise.

Ja'mount Bradley and Julio MinoIn the United States 40% of all edible food goes to waste, costing more than $165 billion each year. Project Reclaim is KFG’s answer to this growing problem, working with farmers and wholesalers to intercept produce normally thrown out for cosmetic issues like blemishes or being too ripe, then using those ingredients to create healthy meals, snacks and food products for social services agencies across San Diego delivered through Project Nourish.

KFG also serves special populations — including the formerly incarcerated, former foster youth, individuals who have suffered from mental health issues, those with substance abuse issues and survivors of domestic violence, who too many write off as unemployable — giving them an opportunity to find satisfying work and reach self-sufficiency. One opportunity, KFG’s Project Launch, is a 13-week culinary training program consisting of roughly 2 hours a day spent on life skills, soft skills and work-readiness training and 6 hours a day spent in the kitchen. The training is funded by SDWP and culminates with a restaurant internship, many of which turn into paid opportunities for Project Launch graduates.

Project Launch’s first cohort graduated in April and has retained 100% employment. The program offers self-sufficiency for the individual as well as societal benefits like reduced recidivism and reliance on social programs and the creation of more tax payers contributing to the local economy. “This program truly changes lives,” says Katrina Meredith, KFG Career Coach.

The principle of self-sustainability is also built into the structure of the organization. The bulk of KFG’s funding comes from their social enterprise arm, which feeds San Diego through catering, contract meals and retail products and provides training opportunities and jobs for the special populations they serve. Job opportunities also come from connections with restaurant partners who understand KFG’s clientele and are open to working with them. Some of San Diego’s best restaurants such as Draft Republic, Bracero, Prep Kitchen, Tiger! Tiger!, Catalina Offshore Products, and Carnitas Snack Shack, to name a few, offer internships and jobs to KFG participants. One partner, the Cucina Urbana Kitchen Group, believes so deeply in KFG’s mission that they’ve set up a cook to chef mentoring program for select graduates. Many others have been so pleased with the individuals referred by KFG that they come to them first when looking to hire.

“Kitchens for good has taught their students the basics on how to cook and enter into professional kitchen,” says Mike Camplin, Executive Chef of Draft Republic. “For some students walking into Draft Republic it was their first real kitchen job. It’s exciting to see the students really soak up all the knowledge that our kitchen has to offer. It really is great to see such an amazing organization get these students ready for entering the workforce with the skills and knowledge to move up in our kitchen. These students, with the help of Kitchens for Good, have truly been set up for success. Kitchens for Good has been such an amazing resource for us as an employer. I cannot recommend them enough.”

For more information, visit kitchensforgood.org.

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