FRESHstart Kitchen Helps Turn Culinary Skills Into Life Skills

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Led by the Chester County Food Bank, this program prepares jobless and underemployed people for a start in the restaurant industry.

When Ranney Moran moved back to Chester County after several years as a chef in New York state, he had an idea. As it turns out, the Chester County Food Bank had a similar one. The Chester County Food Bank executive director had been thinking about using their facility’s resources to help train area residents for the food service industry.

Moran joined the Food Bank in 2018 to launch their FRESHstart Kitchen, which preps under-employed and jobless county residents looking for work in the restaurant world. He provides kitchen training for the 13-week program, which also includes an internship, life skills development, interview training and job placement—much of that directed by Amy Rossman, the food bank’s workforce development manager.

Moran was already field tested for such a job. He’d worked in a kitchen in Woodstock, N.Y., with people battling opiate addiction. “I took a dishwasher and taught him knife skills. Others learned kitchen skills,” Moran says. “I saw how it helped them stay clean.”

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So far, 18 people have graduated from the FRESHstart Kitchen program, which has since become a somewhat abbreviated virtual pursuit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program’s rigorous application process is designed to identify the most motivated applicants. Those who take part help prepare meals distributed to as many as 70,000 people who lack food security.

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