Cooking Up Competencies Through On-the-Job Training
The DES Division of Developmental Disabilities supports its members to lead self-directed, healthy, meaningful lives. Through contracted providers, DDD offers employment training programs to help individuals with developmental disabilities reach their potential in the workplace and further their independence.
One training program at Civitan Foundation, a DDD contracted provider, seeks to maximize each participant’s fundamental desire to showcase their talents, while earning fair compensation for the skills they have worked hard to achieve, according to Kim Jensen-Columbia, Director of Employment Services at Civitan.
Jessica MacDonald is a perfect example. MacDonald, a DDD member and Civitan food service and culinary arts program participant, loves to bake: “It’s one of my favorite things to do, especially if I get to do brownies, cookies, cheesecake – I love to bake!” shared MacDonald.
Baked goods are one of the products the culinary program provides to fulfill its contracts with high schools, cafés and a bakery. “In some instances, it’s more like catering,” commented Jensen-Columbia. The members prepare and assemble meals that will be sold by other local organizations.
During the summer months when school is out of session, the organization contracts with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide free lunches or breakfasts for many Title 1 schools. “During the summer, many of those children don’t have the opportunity to get [school] meals,” said Jensen-Columbia. “We are contracted to provide meals to seven sites. Some are breakfasts, some are lunches and snacks.” Culinary program participants make approximately 33,000 meals a year.
Comparable to professional restaurant kitchens, each DDD member is assigned to a particular work station. Specific tasks are assigned on a rotation basis. DDD members participating in the culinary program at Civitan can expect to work four hours a day during either the morning shift or the afternoon shift.
Civitan’s culinary program is overseen by a professional chef who is Safe Serve Certified. Program participants must also qualify for a Food Handlers Card. A Food Handlers Card is a certificate that is required of all employees who are involved in the preparation, storage or service of food. Food Handler Cardholders must take a food safety training course and pass an examination from an accredited organization. Civitan staff helps its culinary workers with the process.
With a holiday coming up, MacDonald is looking forward to the next day’s assignment: Baking. “I get to make a cheesecake. Baking brings me joy,” she said.
MacDonald explained the pleasure she derives from watching someone take a bite of what she has baked. “Their face lights up like the Fourth of July,” said Jessica. “You can’t beat that look. You just can’t beat it.”
By Lyn Riley