A culinary job training and placement program for homeless and disadvantaged individuals in Seattle, Washington that is now helping launch or expand equivalent programs in more than 48 other cities throughout the United States through a program called Catalyst Kitchens

Headquarters
700 Virginia Street
Seattle, WA 98101

Countries Served
United States

Budget
$4,000,000

Problem


To address the challenges of homelessness and extreme poverty, most cities have soup kitchens and food banks. These admirable organizations meet a pressing need – they help people survive. They do not help people move out of homelessness and poverty.

Programs Offered


The Catalyst Kitchens program provides a proven path to good jobs, permanent housing, and a stable life by leveraging the same assets many nonprofits use to operate soup kitchens and food banks. Through consulting services and a robust membership network, Catalyst Kitchens supports organizations that provide culinary training and outplacement services to help graduates find well-paying permanent employment in the food service industry. These organizations also provide such wrap-around support as temporary housing, mental health and addiction services, clothing, bus tokens, and the like that allow its students to manage their lives while they complete their training.

This model was developed in Seattle by chef and entrepreneur David Lee to provide nutritious and dignified meals to people living in poverty or experiencing homelessness, as well as to provide job training and a path toward self-sufficiency. Lee recognized that food was an extraordinarily powerful and unifying tool through which individuals could transform their lives and launched FareStart in 1992. Over the past 25 years, more than 2,600 students have graduated from FareStart’s Adult Culinary, Youth Culinary, and Youth Barista training programs in Seattle.

Students in the program are involved in preparing meals for local homeless shelters, senior citizen facilities, and low-income day care centers. They prepared and delivered 875,123 such meals in 2017 alone and more than 10 million meals since 1992. FareStart generates approximately one half of its operating revenue through its businesses, including multiple restaurants and cafes, catering, and other commercial food preparation activities. Revenue generated from these businesses supports the FareStart job training and placement program and provides real-world training opportunities for FareStart’s students.

Catalyst Kitchens was created to help other nonprofits across the U.S. to incubate, launch, sustain, and scale programs adapted from the FareStart model. Launched in 2011, Catalyst Kitchens has grown to a network of 65+ member organizations. Leveraging the expertise and resources of FareStart, Catalyst Kitchens helps organizations to assess their suitability as a platform for culinary training, tailors curriculum to meet local needs, ensures program sustainability through self-generated revenue with social enterprise, and supports organizations with wrap-around service arrangements, outplacements strategy, fundraising, shared purchasing, performance monitoring and reporting, and other keys to success.

Historical Results


Since its official launch in early 2011, Catalyst Kitchens has built a national network that has grown to include over 65 member organizations–16 of which are at the “Model Member” level with substantial, active programs in culinary job training, revenue-generating social enterprises, and provision of low income and homeless food services.

In 2017, Catalyst Kitchen member organizations trained 3,614 individuals with barriers to employment and placed 88% in stable jobs. These newly trained food service professionals produced 7 million meals for disadvantaged populations and generated $47 million in revenue.

By 2020, The Catalyst Kitchens network is on track to support 100 member organizations that will train 6,000 people annually in culinary training programs and serve 10,000,000 nutritious meals each year.

Use Of Funds


The budget for Catalyst Kitchen’s central support, tailored technical assistance, and program administration is surprisingly low as are the costs to significantly strengthen the capacity and advance the program of a Catalyst Kitchen member. This means that philanthropic dollars have a highly leveraged impact.

$10,000 funds a major capacity enhancement of a Catalyst Kitchen member.

$25,000 funds Catalyst Kitchen headquarters capacity enhancement permitting more rapid program roll-out.

Path to Credibility


  • Focusing Philanthropy team members have made multiple visits to the Seattle headquarters of FareStart and Catalyst Kitchens. In addition to meetings with the CEO, Director, and other key individuals, Focusing Philanthropy team members have toured the FareStart facilities and dined at two of their restaurants. The team also receives and reviews regular reports prepared by management for its Board, providing the statistical and qualitative status of efforts on a series of local and national priorities. Both the structure and the disciplined approach reflected in these reports inspire confidence, as does the programmatic progress reflected in them.
  • Focusing Philanthropy team members have also visited Cathedral Kitchen, one of Catalyst Kitchen’s Model Members in Camden, New Jersey, and member Step Up on Second in Santa Monica, California.
  • The Founders of Focusing Philanthropy are significant supporters of Catalyst Kitchens.
  • Focusing Philanthropy solicited independent comment on FareStart from various existing donors and other nonprofits in Seattle. Comments received were uniformly positive.
  • In 2012, Catalyst Kitchens won the Social Impact Exchange Business Plan Competition.
  • In 2011, FareStart received the James Beard Foundation Humanitarian of the Year Award, a highly prestigious award given annually to an individual or organization whose work in the realm of food has improved the lives of others and benefited society at large.

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