Philabundance continues free culinary industry classes despite pandemic

Gov. Wolf visits Philabundance for community kitchen grand opening
Gov. Wolf visits Philabundance for community kitchen grand opening Photo credit Courtesy of Philabundance
By KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A hunger relief organization in Philadelphia is expanding its reach in a variety of ways.

Philabundance now has a new $12 million facility in North Philadelphia for culinary industry job training and meal production.

The new state-of-the-art Philabundance Community Kitchen (PCK) is 20,000 square feet. It has three kitchens and is equipped with the latest tools to train low-income adults in the culinary industry.

Its free job training program is now in its 20th year, and despite COVID-19, a limited number of students are participating in a 16-week in-person course.

Samir Hernandez, 30, graduated from the program in 2018 and worked in kitchens in several Philadelphia restaurants.

When COVID-19 hit, he lost his two kitchen jobs. He now teaches at Philabundance, and food safety in a COVID-19 world is part of instruction.

“All of that goes into safe food handling. It’s just another ripple to be able to explain to them: this is our reality, this is what we are going to be dealing with for a very long time. You might as well get with it now so that way, six months to a year from now, to have those skills and be prepared to handle any kitchen space like that,” he said.

PCK’s manager of employment Jennifer “Jae” Williams said they track their students’ progress for two years, and many are getting placed in hospitals, schools, and restaurants.

The meal production space at the facility will be for catering, and the profits will be put back into the program.

The next set of courses start on Jan. 11, 2021.

The program is also reentry friendly.