by Kirby Lindsay, posted 25 May 2012
On June 9th, from 6p – 9p, at Fremont Studios, those fond of good food and drink can delight in the milestone anniversary of FareStart by enjoying tastes from over 20 of Seattle’s best chefs, and the beverages of 30 area wineries and breweries.
FareStart’s 20th Anniversary Bash offers a delicious dining experience while raising money to continue an amazing program that gets the young and/or homeless working, in only 16 weeks. Celebrate, and support, a program that has helped 6,000 people find work, as it builds on that success to help even more.
A Satisfying Solution
Every Tuesday, at 700 Virginia St (in Downtown Seattle,) FareStart holds an orientation gathering for low income and/or homeless folk ready to get back on their feet and into the culinary arts. According to Christina Starr, Communications Manager for FareStart, most students find them through word-of-mouth and referrals from other graduates who got a job after completing the 16-week course, and praised the program within their community. Students also get referrals through placement programs, like WorkFirst, and other partner organizations.
“We are enrolling students every week,” Starr explained, “We don’t want people to have to wait.” Every Monday they can accept a new student, and every week the program can graduate student. Graduations take place during the Thursday Guest Chef Nights in the restaurant. “We want to remove any and all barriers that we can to secure employment,” Starr said.
To that end, the 16-week program teaches students to work in a real, professional kitchen – including working with real, professional chefs. FareStart can also assist students with housing, food, clothing, counseling and other support services – and provides instruction in resumes, interviewing, and other life skills. In 2011, the adult training program graduated 111 individuals, with 52 youth graduating from the Barista Training & Education Program (in partnership with YouthCare.)
Thanks to partnerships with area restaurant employers, FareStart students often have jobs lined up when they graduate. (Check out the impressive list, on-line, of Restaurant Partners that employ FareStart graduates.) In 2011, during a down economy, 82% of adult graduates secured employment, and 90% of the one-time at-risk youth graduates either gained employment, or went back to school. FareStart also offers its resources to graduates if they need assistance later on, and Starr admitted that some restaurants have returned after hiring FareStart graduates to find more.
The Spread Of Success
Last year, FareStart launched Catalyst Kitchens, as a way to take the success of this organization out to communities across the country. FareStart is now one of a network of 28 similar organizations located across the U.S., including Life’s Kitchen in Boise, Idaho, Inspiration Kitchens in Chicago, Illinois, and Liberty’s Kitchen in New Orleans, Louisiana.
“We are a social enterprise organization,” Starr explained. The restaurant “provides training ground and income,” she said, and in 2011 it funded a full one-third of the non-profit’s annual operating budget. The business operations include serving customers at the weekly Guest Chef Nights and weekday lunches, plus in the Café @ 2100 in the Rainier Valley. FareStart also provides catering, and creates nutritious contract meals for childcare centers, homeless shelters and seniors.
A Savory Celebration
In 1988, chef and entrepreneur David Lee founded Common Meals, a for-profit business serving Seattle’s homeless and disadvantaged populations nutritious and culturally appropriate food. He saw an opportunity, as the business grew, to train the individuals he was serving and live the maxim, ‘teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.’ In 1992 he transformed his business into a 501(c)3 non-profit, and founded FareStart.
Lee left FareStart to pursue other business enterprises, but he will return on June 9th to help celebrate the organizations 20 years of stunning success – including its selection by the James Beard Foundation as its 2011 Humanitarian Of The Year.
“We are proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish, however that sense of achievement is tempered by the reality that the need for our services continues to rise,” stated current FareStart CEO Megan Karch, “until we’ve eliminated homelessness, poverty and hunger in our community, we can’t rest or say that we’ve done enough.”
FareStart looks to build on the success its achieved – and surpass the record number of graduates it achieved in 2011. The 20th Anniversary Bash will, hopefully, raise funds to continue the FareStart programs – while offering a delightfully delicious and singular dining experience.
At Fremont Studios, attendees can wander among the offerings of over 20 top Northwest chefs (including Fremont’s Peter Glick,) with some doing cooking demonstrations on-site – including one by Seattle’s own Tom Douglas. In addition, local breweries and wineries (including Fremont’s 509 Wines) will provide beverage samples.
The event takes place between 6p and 9p, and also includes presentations by Lee, FareStart students and graduates. A special raffle will be held, offering $100 gifts cards for 20 of the participating restaurants. Tickets are still available, for this 21+ event, on-line through EventBrite, for $120 per person. All proceeds will go to benefit FareStart job training and placement programs, so enjoy the live music, wine games, and other entertainments while strolling, sampling and savoring how delicious doing good can taste.
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©2012 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.