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Culinary Cornerstones Program dishes out work opportunities for veterans, homeless and unemployed

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It’s been about a year since a program kicked off to put people to work in the food industry. This six- month vocational training program is for the unemployed, homeless, and veterans.

“Finding a job is a lot harder than keeping one,” said Billy Staley.

Staley is a veteran. He went six months without work, until someone at the VA told him about the Culinary Cornerstones Program.

“It is an intensive 30-week, 800-hour training program,” said Kamisha Stanton, the Director of Culinary Cornerstones Program at Episcopal Community Services.

Stanton said they teach kitchen skills and provide work experience, hoping it will land people with full time jobs in the food industry, and help them remain employed.

“They do everything from being a hostess, dishwasher, server, line cook, prep cook, and they even do inventory items to work as a manager to get training in every aspect of the kitchen,” added Stanton.

A lot of the training takes place in the Community Kitchen, where they serve at least 300 people per day.

“Our community members come in, they are greeted by a host, they are seated, they are able to chose what they want to eat from three menu items, including vegan menu items,” Stanton said.

There are no trays, no buffets, and no lines.

“We have volunteers from the community who help serve food, and then our participants in the culinary Cornerstones training program are the ones cooking nutritious meals every day,” added Stanton.

“It was more of a networking opportunity than anything else,” said Staley.

Staley landed a job at Aramark at the Kansas City Convention Center in November of 2016 after graduating from the program.

“It was a good thing that I was able to get something on my resume,” Staley said.

“Our first intern is now a full-time employee, and we’re working on a second, and we’ve been talking about getting three more, either currently with Aramark at the Convention Center or with Aramark at Kauffman Stadium with the Royals,” said Craig McAlister, the Executive Chef of the Kansas City Convention Center with Aramark.

He said they’re doing great!

“It was really something that Aramark wanted to be committed to with our community, with the outreach we try to do, to better our employees and our team,” added McAlister.

About 20 students have graduated from the program, and 75 percent are still employed. There are 30 more students currently going through training.

This model is now being used to help other community kitchens around the world. For more information, click on this link.