As the Freestore Foodbank works to solve the critical issue of hunger for the over 273,000 food insecure residents of our region, helping neighbors in need build self-sufficiency is essential.

During the intake process for emergency food assistance at our Customer Connection Center, Freestore Foodbank employees discover why people are coming to us for help. A majority of people report they are unable to secure and maintain stable employment due to a lack of education/training and other barriers.

Cincinnati COOKS!, the Freestore Foodbank’s free, 10-week, culinary workforce development program helps individuals acquire the skills necessary to find and maintain employment. While other organizations offer similar classes, our training is free and provides wrap-around services. In addition, we accept returning citizens and do not require a specific level of stability before acceptance to the program, instead we work with applicants to improve their stability. Cincinnati COOKS! remains the only program in our region open to individuals of all backgrounds with a focus on formal culinary training rather than on-the-job training.

After graduating from Cincinnati COOKS!, participants can continue their training with Second Course, a free, 8-week program focused on fine dining and kitchen management. Upon completion of Cincinnati COOKS! and Second Course, graduates can enroll at Cincinnati State with 30 credit hours toward an Associate Degree in Culinary Management. The Cincinnati COOKS! program changes the trajectory of participants’ lives, providing a career path and a life enriched through education.

The Freestore Foodbank gratefully acknowledges recent grants from the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, HDR Foundation, Harold C. Schott Foundation, General Mills Foundation Hometown Grantmaking Program, and American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation to support Cincinnati COOKS! this year. We depend on grants and individual restricted donations to support our Cincinnati COOKS! students and provide essential equipment for their training.

“The Trustees of the Harold C. Schott Foundation appreciate the work of Freestore Foodbank, and we are pleased to be able to supports its mission to provide food and services, create stability, and further self-reliance for people in crisis,” said Foundation trustee Allison Kropp. “It is because of Freestore Foodbank’s mission and the way that it delivers upon that mission that the Foundation provided grant funding to help fund Power Pack sites for the 2018-19 school year, to support families in the Stabilization Program, helping them attain their goals and build their self-sufficiency, and to provide training and wrap-around services for Cincinnati COOKS! students.”

The HDR Foundation grant, along with donations from Mitchell and Elissa Habib, Karen Maier and Delane Starliper, will allow us to replace two outdated and inefficient CombiOvens in the COOKS! kitchen. The new equipment will ensure Cincinnati COOKS! participants are familiar with the appliances currently used in commercial kitchens, enhancing their opportunities for employment upon graduation.

If you would like to support Cincinnati COOKS!, please contact Jean Reisinger Coggan, or 513-482-3730.