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Channels Food Rescue's kitchen training program launches in YorkEducation outreach expanding its help so people can help themselves — and fill workforce need

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Dauphin County-based Channels Food Rescue is kicking off a York expansion this fall of its longtime Kitchen School program that focuses on taking people who often have criminal records and teaching them the skills they need to work in restaurants or catering businesses.

The food rescue is partnering with York-based Glory House Ministries for the new satellite program. The initiative has received support of $10,000 from York County-based Penn Waste Inc. and an additional, anonymous donation of $10,000, Channels said.

Glory House Ministries helps to feed a lot of needy people in the York community, and its relationship with Channels began with Channels delivering food for Glory House to distribute, Pastor Tom Frederick said.

Channels saw the organization's facilities and said it would make a good location for an expansion of its kitchen training program, Frederick said.

"I think it's a good thing to give people a skill that they can move up," he said.

The need for job training and placement is significant in York, according to Channels.

The Kitchen School's 12 weeks of classes followed by a two-week internship prepare students to work as line cooks or in similar jobs, said Jackie Pestka, director of culinary programs for Channels.

The focus of the free program is on knife skills and other basics, she said.

"This is to give people a second chance or a third chance. A lot of my student body comes right out the corrections system," Pestka said.

The core Kitchen School curriculum is accompanied by life-skills sessions covering topics such as conflict resolution and managing a bank account, she said.

Pestka was knocking on doors to get the word out at York-area restaurants in the weeks leading up to the kickoff open house Sept. 24 and said the feedback from the businesses was positive.

Placement has been about 80 to 90 percent since the program launched about 15 years ago, she said.

Food businesses are almost always looking for people because they generally have high turnover. But it's a way for people to earn a living if they are willing to work, Pestka said.

Channels also has an arm called New Leaf Catering that Pestka runs along with students who get additional experience that can help them in the working world.

Channels is a nonprofit delivering surplus food from restaurants or special events to people in need, providing meals to children in parts of the midstate and teaching people to better support themselves and their families with kitchen skills, Pestka said.

The Kitchen School follows the philosophy that teaching a person to fish is better for everyone than just giving them a fish for a day, Pestka said. It's better for them and for their families, the government programs and nonprofits who support them when they aren't working, and the employers who need people with the right set of skills.

"If you give these folks a skill and get them in there and get them working, it changes everything." Pestka said. "It takes the weight off of everybody."

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