Teaching the homeless to cook

November 24, 2009 3:09:38 PM PST
As you're starting to prepare your Thanksgiving feast, there are some men and women who have made the meal over and over in the hopes of mastering it and improving their cooking skills. And this Thanksgiving, they have reason to be thankful. They've made a lot of turkeys over the past several months, and while they're cooking, they're learning skills that will help them land jobs and better their situations.

Squash, sprouts, sweet potatoes and, of course, the bird. They are the ingredients and the skills needed to make a Thanksgiving meal. And it's also job training.

"They really want to be here," Help USA chef Dan McGuire said. "They want to change their situation."

The common situation is homelessness. All participants are currently living in shelters in the Help USA. network

"My director at my shelter found this place," student Melissa Sheppard said. "And they took me in and put me here in the school."

Sheppard is taking the nine-week long culinary arts program. She's learning food handling and cooking basics. And they really do cook, usually for other men and women in the shelters.

And for the past several weeks, they've been perfecting the traditional Thanksgiving feast. And while most of their cooking is done at shelters, this meal is being made at the French Culinary Institute in SoHo. It's a chance to experience a professional-grade kitchen. So far, Help USA has placed 6,000 people in good jobs.

Aside from the culinary arts program, there are also training programs for computer and office skills and for janitorial work. And Help USA helps with job placement and helps people move from shelters to permanent housing.

For more on the Frech Culinary Institute, visit FrenchCulinary.com.

For more on Help USA, visit HelpUSA.org.