By Brie Wells
At the Heart of the Trenton community lies the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK), which has been serving the city for over 40 years. With the mission of feeding those who are hungry in the local community, TASK provides thousands of meals to clients facing food insecurity and homelessness each week.
In addition to serving hot meals, TASK offers adult self-sufficiency programs to help improve clients’ quality of life. One of their most popular programs is Emilio’s Culinary Academy.
The academy was founded in February 2020 in conjunction with the Catalyst Kitchen Impact grant, which provides funding for culinary programs and soup kitchens that aid underserved communities. The purpose of the academy is to reach out to a population who may have difficulty entering the workforce and give members the opportunity to gain education and access to skills that will help them secure a better future.
The program is designed to equip students with culinary skills and other soft skills including resume writing, job preparation and the ability to access resources such as social work or case management.
With the recent renovation of the kitchen, the brand new practice space at TASK allows up to four students to receive hands-on training from seasoned chefs who work tirelessly to run the program. The program consists of eight weeks of practical culinary education. This includes food safety certification and two weeks of internship working in the TASK kitchen putting their new skills to use. Regarding the success of the program, Co-Director Adam Livow said, “Within 10 weeks of time we have students graduating the program and being lined up with job offers….They are going from being unemployed to being self-sufficient and having a steady paycheck which gets them that much closer to self-sufficiency.”
The program has previously graduated a number of cohorts of students successfully and the staff are looking forward to graduating the next class. Alumni have found major success working for companies and institutions such as UPS, Wayfair and Rider University.