Culinary arts program cooking up good food, hope

Training program teaches basic culinary arts skills in 12 weeks

ROANOKE, Va. – A training program in Roanoke is cooking up good food as well as hope and opportunity in the area.

The Culinary Arts Training Program at the Community Solutions Center on Melrose Avenue is put on in partnership with Goodwill Industries of the Valleys and Feeding America Southwest Virginia. 

"This program targets folks that are unemployed or underemployed and are looking to change their lives and at the same time, change the lives of those around them," said Amanda Allen with Feeding America Southwest Virginia.

The program graduated its first class in October.

"It was so cool to see the transition in the individual students in our first cohort from the time that they started to their graduation day," Allen said. "They were equally excited themselves to talk about how they changed and all of the things they had learned and how excited they were to take those skills out into the community and make a difference."

Dan Parks Jr., a Roanoke native, is currently a part of the program's second session.

"I thought about culinary classes a couple years ago but I just never took the steps to go about doing it," Parks said.

The free, 12-week program teaches students culinary arts basics and the knowledge to gain a nationally recognized food safety certification. Students also help make fresh meals for FASWVA children's programs.

"The students themselves get to feel that impact of 'I'm giving back to my community and I'm helping make a difference,'" Allen said.

The program is a part of plans to grow and develop northwest Roanoke.

"Unfortunately, northwest Roanoke is a food desert. There's a lot of challenges in accessing fresh, nutritious food here and it's also seen some challenges with things like gun violence," Allen said.

Parks said the skills he's learning now will be valuable in the future.

"I've wanted to own my own restaurant, a soul food restaurant," Parks said.

FASWVA and Goodwill are some of the many community partners and neighbors working to bring positive change to the area. Click here to learn how to apply for the Culinary Arts Training Program.

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