National Grant Helps TASK put Culinary Job Training Initiative Back on Track

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Emilio’s Culinary Academy,  the 12-week culinary training program TASK put on the back burner after the coronavirus hit New Jersey, has relaunched thanks to grant from Catalyst Kitchen, a national initiative established to help grow food-service job training across the U.S.

The funds are part of Catalyst Kitchen’s $1 million fund-raising effort to fight the pandemic’s negative effects. TASK, along with 35 other organizations nationwide, was granted funding after it met the grantors benchmark of over 1,000 meals served per week since the onset of the pandemic. Supplying meals for shelters, senior citizens and others in the community, TASK is now serving nearly 8,000 meals a week – an overall annual increase of 80 percent.

“This crisis has called into question basic needs such as food security for millions of Americans,” said Corinne Molz, communications coordinator for Catalyst Kitchen “Our members are fighting to defend these rights for their communities across the country. We applaud their work…”

Last year, TASK joined the Catalyst Kitchen network to provide pathways to self-sufficiency through food-service training, soft-skills development and targeted job placement services. The culinary initiative was launched in February 2020. However, classes were suspended along with in-house dining and all non-food related programs in March when the state began efforts to stem the spread of  Covid-19. Before then, the academy was in full swing with students navigating everything from food safety to on-the job interpersonal skills. But after five months of rotating TASK staff to keep pace with increasing demands, “it was time to bring the students back into the kitchen,” said TASK Manager of Food Services and Facilities Paul Jensen.

“At the start of the pandemic, there were so many unknowns –  so many what if’s,” Jensen said. “We had to rethink and adjust our procedures and delivery methods… especially in anticipation of the increased need. Now, with our new systems humming along, we have a better understanding of the need in Mercer County and the effects of COVID-19. So, we’re trying to phase in our programs whenever possible and bringing back the culinary students to help prepare meals, is a great first step.”

Read More about the Catalyst Kitchens Impact Initiative Grant Recipients