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Vermont Works for Women - Fresh Food Enterprise

August 20, 2014

If you came to the 2014 Annual Forum Dinner, you may have taken the opportunity to chime in on your preference between two special bites of mac and cheese. The taste test was brought to you by Vermont Works for Women Fresh Food Enterprise—an organization we are honored to have as a member, and we want to tell you why!

The Fresh Food Enterprise is a culinary training program for women with barriers to traditional employment. The 13-week program readies hard working women to take on careers in professional kitchens teaching knife skills, recipe development, safety and sanitation practices, kitchen math--even gardening in their adjacent kitchen garden! Three trained chefs take on 3-6 students at a time and give them nearly one-on-one instruction in the kitchen. The healthy meals they prepare feed around 300 kids in childcare programs in and around their facility in Winooski, VT.

The mac and cheese tasting is an example of how they creatively work healthy, fresh and local food into kid classics. The “Very Veggie Mac and Cheese” (made with 100% Vermont dairy) gets its orange color from pureed carrot and sweet potato giving it a nutritional boost!

Why the taste test at the Forum? The ladies at Fresh Food were trying out a dehydrated verses pureed vegetable method—the pureed won, hands down.

This summer the students took on an extra special challenge—turning gleaned produce from farms including the Intervale Center, Salvation Farms and Jericho Settlers into a prepared foods CSA for Vermont Works for Women Employees and employees of Vermont Energy Investment Corporation. Melissa Corbin, Director of Social Enterprise at Vermont Work for Women said, “Thursday nights [after the CSA delivery], were the most exciting nights of the summer!” Rising to the task of turning a diverse pile of veggies into a beautifully prepared meal made for a creative and rewarding project that is sure to benefit Fresh Food grads in their future kitchen careers.

Placement for program graduates is at 81%, and students wind up in a diverse mix of kitchens ranging from school food service providers to cafes, senior living facilities, upscale restaurants and supermarkets. You can find two recent grads, Melissa and Ashley, earning a livable wage with benefits, in their new full-time positions in the Davis Center at UVM working for Sodexo Campus Services! Businesses that hire Vermont Works for Women grads and the graduates themselves stay in close touch with the program, offering the kind of support network needed for women new to the culinary workforce that have faced many challenges in life.

How can you support the work of Vermont Works for Women Fresh Food Enterprise? Hire a grad! Do you run a kitchen in need of hard working, well-trained employees? Visit their website and reach out to Melissa Corbin to see if you might be a good match.  


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