Soups and Sweets prepares adults with disabilities for careers in the food service industry. A professional chef and an experienced occupational therapist provide training. The six-month program includes 200 hours of food service training in a commercial kitchen. It also includes weekly work readiness classes, which address topics such as teamwork, attendance and punctuality, grooming and hygiene, safety in the workplace, communication, working effectively with supervisors, and positive professional behavior.
As part of our training program, students also participate 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. ServSafe certification is an important addition to the résumés of our graduates.
Prospective participants are referred to JFCS 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 include 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. Students must also demonstrate appropriate social skills and be motivated to pursue a career in the food service industry. Soups and Sweets accepts individuals who wish to challenge themselves, overcome obstacles, and strive to be their absolute best.
Once our students graduate, they have the opportunity to join the JFCS Supported Employment program, an approved vendor of DVRS and DDD. Supported Employment helps students obtain and maintain meaningful, community-based employment, allowing them to achieve their fullest potential in the workplace. Employment specialists and job coaches assist with résumé writing, interview skills, and job searches. Once employment is secured, they provide mentorship to help our students maintain their jobs.
As of June 2022, 95 students have graduated from Soups and Sweets. Eighty of these students obtained employment (84% success rate). Even more impressive, 70 of these students obtained employment in the food service industry (74% 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!