Community Kitchen Pittsburgh is a non-profit foundation that provides culinary training and job placement services to adults who face employment barriers.
Launched in 2013, CKP helps people train for higher than entry-level positions, and the food the trainees prepare serves local schools and institutions. As an initiative, CKP is able to provide benefits at multiple levels – they help with “food services, food education, food rescue and access, and workforce training.”
What’s Carnegie Mellon University’s Connection to CKP?
AVI Foodsystems Inc. has serviced CMU since 1996, but in 2016, the new “AVI Pure” system was introduced, and selected as the primary food service provider for the Tepper Quad. AVI Pure offers tasty options without artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, antibiotics, or growth hormones. What most students and faculty don’t know, however, is that in addition to innovative menus, and quality ingredients, AVI also values where it sources its food from.
Have you ever eaten a salad from the new Tepper Quad building? You might be surprised to learn that the bulk of these salads are made daily by CKP. I spoke with Jennifer Flanagan, the Executive Director and Founder of CKP, about the details of this culinary partnership and the mission of their organization.
Why CMU + CKP MATTERS
Jen explained: “We train people who cannot afford culinary school, while providing the market with skilled staff. Our training is fully integrated into our food service enterprises.” She went on to say that AVI was a great partner to have, for a variety of reasons: “we generate revenue from the food services we provide to AVI; the production of the salads for AVI provides hands-on training for our culinary students, and AVI is also an employer for our graduates.”
When you eat a salad made by CKP, it may not seem like a big deal. But, this purchase
supports the training and eventual job-security of locals who were, beforehand, struggling or unable to find employment. Of course, CMU is just one of many alliances needed to keep CKP up-and-running. As its mission implies, none of the CKP students pay tuition or fees for their training, but it costs about $1200 to provide a robust education for each and every pupil. What’s so great about CKP is that their training and services create products (yummy food) that can be supplied to a variety of businesses and schools, and in turn, these food sales provide 65% of CKP’s operational costs. The rest of CKP’s funds are dependent on charitable contribution.
As CMU students “train,” in an academic sense, for their future employment, it’s nice to know that simply grabbing a meal on campus can aid others with their own aspirations. Sometimes students get so absorbed and lost in the campus “bubble,” that without meaning to, they barely think about the larger Pittsburgh community. But we’re all very dependent upon our environment, and it’s important to consider how we might be able to (even in simple ways) support local businesses and charities and give back.
The Breakdown – What CKP Provides
Community Kitchen Pittsburgh provides multiple workplace development programs. Students “work and train alongside professional chefs producing nutritious, from-scratch bulk meals.”
One service is Culinary Job Training. This entails a 12-week course in the culinary arts, where students learn about food handling, safety, and sanitation. Graduates receive a ServSafe Managers certificate, which can lead to employment in restaurant and other high-volume kitchens.
Another option is Transitional Job Opportunities. CKP provides temporary positions to unemployed, currently or formally incarcerated individuals with at least one-year prior experience working in kitchens. For these workers, the program will provide an employer reference, resume experience, temporary income, and help from an employment specialist to find a different job in the future.
Apprenticeship Training is the third type of programming. CKP partners with certain employers to place their graduates in restaurant or commercial kitchens for added training. They will offset a portion of the cost for this extra training.
What Does the Typical Day for Students Look Like?
Jen explained the basics of how CKP works, saying: “The program is run Monday through Friday. Students start at 8:00 a.m. in one of our kitchens working on production for the above business lines. The curriculum is integrated into that production, so the chef instructor will be teaching everything from knife skills to cooking methods within the context of the meals being produced. It’s hands-on training, so we do have two chef instructors working directly with students, but the students are preparing most of the food.”
After lunch, Jen says “students move into the classroom for culinary or ServSafe classes or life skills classes on topics ranging from financial literacy to conflict resolution. The student day wraps up at 3:00 p.m. Students are also now required to do a 32-hour internship with an employer partner or in one of our business lines (working catering events, for example) before graduation. As students near graduation we assist with resumes, interviews, and job search. We also provide paid training opportunities with employer partners. These give graduates 4 additional months of paid training at an area employer and are meant to give them the opportunity to quickly move into a higher paid position, and to incentivize employers to invest in the training by offsetting a portion of the wage costs during that 4-month period.”
Jen says the students are also provided additional resources, to help them get the most success out of the program. Uniforms and shoes, as well as bus passes, are provided at no cost. If food insecurity is an issue, CKP is partnered with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, to supply students with the food they need. In some cases, CKP has helped students find housing, or addressed other concerns and barriers so that students can transition into employment.
Over 90% of CKP graduates find employment upon completion of the program. “We aim to support our clients’ career pathways in any way we can,” Jen emphasized.
Who Else Does CKP Serve?
- CKP is a registered Food Management Company, so they serve school lunches to:
- The Environmental Charter School
- Urban Academy
- Six Propel charter school locations
- They serve daily meals to several nonprofits for their onsite meal programs:
- Vets Place
- Peer Support and Advocacy Network
- They produce products for Prescription Foods, which is a line of fermented products sold in markets around Pittsburgh
- They operate a live chef station at the Energy Innovation Center on Tuesdays
- Looking to expand to other professional buildings
- They offer catering services
- Every Thursday at 12:30, they offer $5 lunches at their Hazelwood location
Want to Get Involved?
Besides eating the salads at Tepper Quad, if you’re interested, there’s many other ways to help CKP (both big and small). If you visit their website, you can sign up to volunteer for a variety of roles they need, specifically in: culinary training, food education, catering and events, general office and admin assistance, or serving as a guest chef.
You can also donate in a variety of ways — they accept certain food donations and chef supplies, which they outline specifically on their website. Another possibility is choosing Community Kitchen Pittsburgh as your charity of choice through Amazon Smile, so that each time you make an order, a small proceed will go to them.
For more details about their organization and how to donate, visit the links below!
Do you value when CMU partners with other local business and organizations? Do you have a favorite charity that you think CMU should look into? Let us know in the comments below!