This post guest written by LFA Intern, Celeste Colmenares. Photo by Michael Moriarty
Spanish for charity, Caridad Community Kitchen is a program by the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona serving nutritious hot meals and sack lunches for people in need in Tucson. The program also trains the unemployed and underemployed in the culinary arts. Each Caridad Community Kitchen team of students is given hands-on opportunities to gain knife skills, experience different cooking methods and gain the knowledge to make a collection of dressings, and sauces. Students quickly gain culinary practice by applying their new skills to prepare almost 18,000 meals per month for the feeding program and catering service. Comments one graduate, Deana, “My life is being ‘put into place’ because of Caridad. They reinforced skills that helped to break down my barriers to employment. I am currently employed, which has eased my financial stresses and increased my confidence level. I thank them deeply.”
According to Wirtis, the executive chef and instructor of Caridad Community Kitchen, past graduates are working at many of Tucson’s finest restaurants, Graduates have been placed at many of Tucson;s favorites, such as the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass, Canyon Ranch, Skyline Country Club, Wildflower, Sauce, and The Hub. Each year at SAVOR Southern Arizona Food and Wine Festival, Caridad students come to help partcipating chefs present their dishes to the public. Last year many of these students were immediately hired by local chefs after assisting them at SAVOR.
Caridad Community Kitchen is a harvest of positive change for individuals ready for a new start. Chefs and culinary students use fresh and local donations from the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona to serve community churches, Boys and Girls clubs as well as shelters. Caridad Community Kitchen welcomes a range of individuals by knitting together a strong sense of togetherness. The program is a judgment free zone that allows the kitchen crew to learn and grow together. Within the span of the 10-week culinary training program, the Caridad Community Kitchen leaves graduates with certified safety and sanitation qualifications through ServSafe Manager Certification. Caridad helps students like Deana gain confidence and discover their true potential. In addition students are trained with conflict solving skills within the workplace, receive resume building advice and job placement assistance. This program prepares students for the workforce, with approximately 80% of students attaining jobs after completing the program.
For over fifteen years Caridad Community Kitchen has been a potluck of giving. The cycle of virtuous acts Caridad has incorporated builds on the principle that hunger can be solved in many ways. Caridad also runs a catering operation called Food for the Social Good. Proceeds from catering go back to the Community Food Bank and Caridad Community Kitchen in order to feed those hungry in the community and provide training. To use Caridad catering services, visit them online here. Come learn more about the Caridad Community Kitchen, the Community Food Bank, and meet Caridad Students as they showcase their skills while assisting Chefs at SAVOR Southern Arizona Food and Wine Festival, Southern Arizona’s largest local culinary festival. This splendid celebration of local food and drinks also highlights organizations that contribute to the economic and gastronomic sustainability of Baja Arizona. SAVOR takes place at the Tucson Botanical Gardens on February 4th, 2017. Buy tickets online here.