Jewish Family & Children's Service designed the "Soups and Sweets" culinary training program to provide young adults with special needs an opportunity to gain marketable, transferable food service skills. The goal of the program is to increase paid employment opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities. Limited training opportunities exist for employment in the food services field. Soups and Sweets addressed this deficiency by establishing a training and internship program. After completion of 200 training hours, and an internship with Soups and Sweets Catering, individuals have obtained food service skills, and are marketable for employment in the food services industry. Soups and Sweets impacts the community by helping to reduce unemployment of individuals with special needs; increase awareness amongst community members that individuals with special needs can obtain and maintain competitive employment; and influence social minded individuals to choose a catering business whose mission is to employ individuals with special needs.
Trainees making Spanakopita
Trainees making Spanakopita
Soups and Sweets Training Class
Soups and Sweets Training Class
Jewish Family & Children's Service is committed to enhancing the quality of life of individuals with special needs and providing support, education and networking opportunities for their families. Our goal is to develop programs and services in support of individuals with special needs so that they can achieve their highest potential and lead independent and fulfilled lives as members of our community. JFCS provides supported employment services to high school graduates through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Division of Developmental Disabilities. Through client and family feedback and staff experience, the Special Needs department recognized that there were no local culinary training programs for those with special needs and that many clients were interested in working in the food services industry. The Special Needs committee also identified the community need for this type of training program.
JFCS involved the community in developing Soups and Sweets through outreach, fundraising, surveying the needs of the special needs population and brainstorming with those experienced in culinary training, such as the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services. JFCS solicited a local synagogue, willing to rent their commercial kitchen to the program and the assistance of a professional chef with experience teaching those with special needs.
The mission of Soups and Sweets is to build a catering business that is socially innovative and that offers South Jersey organizations, businesses, agencies and families, convenient, affordable and delicious food items to be purchased for parties, meetings, and gatherings. Income generated by the business has provided us with increased opportunities for growth, enabling us to achieve the second goal of Soups and Sweets; that is, to provide culinary training to those with special needs, thereby increasing their employment opportunities to work in a commercial kitchen.
Barbara Abrams, the Director of the Special Needs department, met with Louis Rutten berg, the proposed program director and professional chef, as well as representatives from a local synagogue. Together, they developed the business plan, curriculum and schedule for the Soups and Sweets Training Program. They prepared a budget, an initial marketing plan and a list of necessary supplies to begin the program. They also identified possible funding sources. and menu items to be prepared by the trainees. Barbara met with the funds development team at JFCS, including the grant writer, in an effort to educate them about the financial requirements of Soups and Sweets and to provide potential funders. Barbara met with her staff and her clients in an effort to identify possible candidates for the training program. Finally, Barbara met with the Communications Director to develop marketing materials which were used to solicit potential trainees.
Evaluation tools were developed to assess the success of the training and catering business:
• Screening tool to better identify trainees who would succeed and who would pursue a career in food services (this was in response to several early training participants who did not succeed or who did not wish to pursue a food service career;
• Self evaluation tool for training graduates;
• Evaluation survey for employers who hire training graduates;
• Evaluation survey for customers who purchase products prepared by Soups and Sweets catering
Sustaining the Work:
To maintain the valuable aspects of Soups and Sweets, we developed subcommittees which meet and assess the accomplishments and goals of the catering business, gauging progress against our strategic plan. The marketing subcommittee developed strategies to reach the broader community. Their recommendations have been implemented on social media, and through fliers. The finance subcommittee analyzed products to identify profit margins and prepared a cost of goods analysis which will guide future planning. We also refined the committee structure by adding members who have backgrounds in food service or business. These efforts focused on the catering business, in addition to creative and consistent fundraising, will help to sustain the training program. A.s such, we are hopeful that the project will be an ongoing success; training individuals with special needs, providing internship and employment opportunities within the catering business and ultimately obtaining paid employment positions for them in the food services industry.
Since the inception of Soups and Sweets, 24 individuals have graduated from the training program. 58% of the graduates have obtained employment in the food services industry. 20% of the graduates decided not to work in food service and the balance of 22% are currently seeking food service employment, with good prospects in the works. Soups and Sweets Catering, a social venture, grew out of the training program and provides internship opportunities for the graduates. Income generated by the catering business provides us with increased opportunities for growth, enabling us to increase employment opportunities for those with special needs and raise awareness about the abilities of those with special needs. During its first year, Soups and Sweets catering earned $12,000. We are extremely optimistic that sales will continue to increase as the customer base expands and have projected revenue of $45,000 for this year.