FoodWorks program at the Maryland Food Bank

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The Maryland Food Bank is well known for providing food to people in need through its many programs. One of those programs, FoodWorks, not only helps reduce hunger, it also develops culinary skills in the aspiring chefs preparing the meals. Through a partnership with the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), the Maryland Food Bank offers 12 weeks of training in culinary arts to low-income people. Scholarships from the organization eliminate a financial barrier for many.

Taking the course and working means a long day for Brandice Gary, 21, Park Heights, who works 18-hour days. “I told myself if I can do this, I can do anything.” But a benefit for a long day comes with Gray knowing “The food I cook doesn’t go to waste. It’s not for show. It’s for feeding people.”

Manny Robinson, Executive Chef at the Maryland Food Bank, leads the program and says the FoodWorks students cook 1000 pounds of fresh food a day, building their skills as they help others. “It all goes full circle. You can take food that is highly perishable and turn it in to great family meals. Meals and entrees that a chef would be proud of.”

The meals they prepare are vacuum-sealed and go to soup kitchens, homeless shelters and food pantries.

Students in the program also study and are tested for a food safety certification. The food bank helps graduates find a full-time job. According to The Maryland Food Bank website “FoodWorks graduates earn an average of $13 per hour—well above the current minimum wage.” The current class graduates October 9.

David Jones, 69, Landsdowne, a veteran of the Viet Nam War, says “I gave back in the military now I’m giving back here.” He wants to open a Kosher restaurant and “employ those that have not the option or the skills.” Jones wants to “let them know that they can do it for themselves instead of somebody else” doing it for them.