Nearly 25 years ago, FareStart pioneered a unique model for transforming lives while feeding people in need in Seattle.
The model has been successful because the organization is both an effective social service provider and a thriving social enterprise. Providing exceptional culinary job training and support for people in need, they also leverage the incredible energy and talent of their students to fuel the Seattle area’s best loved restaurant, cafes, catering services and school and community meals. FareStart runs a restaurant and two cafes, offers catering for celebrations and corporate events, and prepares and delivers 3,000 hot meals to social service programs and schools around the Puget Sound.
All of the individuals the organization serves are coming out of poverty, homelessness, addiction or incarceration. What they all share are barriers to employment. By offering job training and employment placement in the foodservice industry, FareStart empowers them by giving them the skills to become self-sufficient.
In addition to teaching kitchen and knife skills, meal preparation, safe food handling and meal planning, a key component of the program’s success is that FareStart provides wraparound services that enable students to concentrate on the on-the-job training. These comprehensive services include housing and childcare assistance, life skills counseling, personal finance education, bus fares, plus assistance with job readiness including mock interviews, resume building and basic computer skills, along with job placement. This approach gives the broad, solid support that each individual needs to make lasting, positive life changes, regardless of whether they stay in the foodservice industry.
Since its start, FareStart’s culinary job training program has graduated more than 2,300 people. It has a 90% job placement rate for its adults within three months of graduation.
For its young students who are facing steep challenges early in life, FareStart promotes education and employment to engage them in progressive steps to prevent future homelessness. The organization offers youth culinary and barista programs, both of which incorporate customer skills training, along with developing a reliable work ethic into their on-the-job training.
Over the past decade, FareStart has been approached by more than 150 organizations around the world to assist them in having a greater impact in their community. In 2011, the organization launched Catalyst Kitchens to meet that need. This program helps fuel social enterprise nationally by incubating, launching and scaling foodservice social enterprises and culinary job training programs based on the FareStart model. Over the past five years, organizations that were started or assisted by the Catalyst Kitchens team have trained more than 12,000 people and generated more than $125 million in revenue for social service programs. Today, the program has 65 member organizations – each on the front lines in the fight against hunger, poverty and joblessness.
The FareStart model works because it not only breaks the cycle of poverty that individuals face, but because it’s a sustainable approach to human services. FareStart’s social enterprises make up 50% of the organization’s revenue – every dollar is reinvested back into FareStart programs to recruit, train and support more people.