The Soups and Sweets Culinary Training Program provides instruction help prepare individuals with disabilities for careers in the hospitality or food service industry. Training is provided by a professional chef and an experienced occupational therapist. The six-month program includes 200 hours of food service training in a commercial kitchen and weekly work readiness classes, which address issues such as conflict management, professional behavior, supervision, stress management, and teamwork. As part of our training program, every student participates in the ServSafe Food Handler Course, a food and beverage safety training and certification program sponsored by the US National Restaurant Association and accredited by the Conference for Food Protection.
The cornerstone of Soups and Sweets is our students—the reason we do what we do! All of the students who participate in the program are referred to us from the New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS), the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD), or local school districts. Our individualized instruction gives students the opportunity to explore areas of the culinary arts that particularly appeal to them. Criteria to participate in the program includes the ability to work both independently and as part of a team, as well as the ability to read simple recipes and complete simple math problems. They must also demonstrate appropriate social skills and be motivated to pursue a career in the food service industry. Soups and Sweets trains individuals who wish to challenge themselves, overcome obstacles, and strive to be their very best.
Once our students graduate, they have the opportunity to receive assistance through the JFCS Supported Employment program, an approved vendor of DVRS and DDD. Supported Employment helps students obtain and maintain employment, allowing them to achieve their fullest potential in the workplace. Employment specialists and job coaches work diligently with our students, helping with résumé writing, interview skills, and job searches. Once employment is secured, they provide mentorship to help our students maintain their jobs.
As of March 2020, 87 students have graduated from Soups and Sweets and 72 of these students have obtained employment—an 83% success rate! This statistic is remarkable given that according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, in 2019, only 19% of individuals with disabilities were employed. We are grateful to the many businesses in South Jersey that have hired our students.
For information on this program, contact Barbara Abrams, Director of Special Needs, at email@example.com.