Culinary Starts program aims to end cycle of homelessness - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Culinary Starts program aims to end cycle of homelessness


A program in Iowa City is looking to break the cycle of homelessness. At Shelter House, residents can take a 12 week course and learn the basics of working in a restaurant. After finishing the program people have job skills and experience.

Following some problems in his life, Larry White found himself homeless and went to Shelter House..

"I've slept on the street," said White. "It's not good. A roof and a meal here is a lifesaver."

Now White is helping make meals. He's one of four people in the homeless shelter's Culinary Starts program, which teaches residents of the shelter basic kitchen skills, from sanitation to how to handle a knife.

"We go through and teach them the real simple forms of cooking, understanding the difference between roast and braise, what a saute means opposed to a fry," said Kurt Michael Friese, Executive Chef. "How to break down a chicken. How to dice an onion. Real simple stuff."

Trainees in the program also get help building a resume and learning how to prepare for an interview. The goal is to give people the skills they need to get an entry level job in the culinary industry.

"It's 550 billion dollar a year industry," said Friese. "There's plenty of employment out there, from the very basic to high level stuff."

Kimerli Blumer finished the program and is now the shelter's kitchen manager, helping prepare and plan the catering, contract meals, and deli that are all part of the Culinary Starts program.

"I'm still helping the people coming into the shelter," said Blumer. "Helping them learn a new profession or trade so to speak and then sending them back out to get their feet on the ground also like I did. It's truly gratifying."

The shelter has many programs to help residents get back on their feet. People can only stay at the shelter for 90 days.

"They help you with everything," said White. "If you're working they help you with clothes. Some medicines if you can't pay for them, they'll help you pay for them. They have a work program where they help you find work."

White is looking forward to applying his skills in the real world.

"It's like chemistry and I was good at chemistry when I was in school, and you get to eat what you make or bake," said White.

The Culinary Starts program has ongoing food contracts with several businesses in Iowa City. If you're interested in their catering program, click here.

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