Seattle to the World: FareStart

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Delicious Meals With a Social Purpose

The story:
In 1988, founder David Lee started a business with the goal of providing low-income and homeless populations with dignified access to healthy meals. After four years of that work, he expanded that mission to empower needy Seattleites to help themselves by giving them valuable skills and helping them gain rewarding jobs. FareStart, now a thriving non-profit, offers a 16-week intensive adult culinary training program, and a youth barista training program in partnership with YouthCare.

The original mission is still there: FareStart's students, staff and volunteers work together to provide nutritious, from-scratch meals for childcare programs and homeless shelters all over Seattle, every day of the year. But now for its students, FareStart offers not only hands-on training in the kitchen, but also valuable instruction on workplace behavior and other skill sets that will prepare them to gain and sustain employment over time. And they support their hardworking students with help finding affordable housing and networking to help them find employment (currently, 80 percent of graduates are hired).

Krystella Conner, executive chef at McCormick's Fish House, offered FareStart graduate Michael Edlefsen a job after working with him at a FareStart Guest Chef Night. She says he has found success in his new position. As Conner told a member of the FareStart staff, "I am so happy Michael is on our team because he is very professional, humble and willing to learn."

FareStart also engages the broader urban community in a way that sets it apart from food banks and emergency services. Its downtown café is a natural portal of interaction, where Seattle residents of incredibly diverse backgrounds and income levels can interact in a peaceful, positive way. The unifying power of delicious food, combined with respectable and inspiring themes such as hard work, ambition and social responsibility, foster an appreciation for diversity and a sense that when people help one other succeed, everyone benefits.

Why it's Worldchanging:
The Seattle/King County Coalition for the Homeless estimated that at least 8,439 men, women and children were homeless in King County during an annual One Night Count on January 24-25, 2008. The emotional stress and physical struggle of being without shelter compounds these needy individual's difficulty in finding and obtaining lasting work to put them back on the path to self-reliance. By providing real job skills and offering help in other areas of their personal lives, organizations like FareStart offer real sustainable solutions to people in need, and create a safe and dignified environment in which they can learn to help themselves, and to trust others. Through its high profile café, FareStart also creates a way for an entire city to learn and interface about a problem that all cities face, in a way that is positive and accessible to people of diverse incomes, schedules and abilities.

Photo credit: FareStart.


This post is part of the series, "Seattle to the World: 100 Best Innovations from the Emerald City."

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