Meals and a Silver Lining…
Thanks to FareStart’s Catalyst Kitchens
The aroma in Pathlight Kitchen is mouthwatering. It wafts behind the carts delivering the freshly prepared, healthy meals to the residents in the three Pathlight HOME Permanent Supportive Housing Programs, who now call one of two transformed hotels home. Once living in the streets, woods, and shelters of Central Florida, they are changing their lives with the help of the nonprofit’s “housing first” philosophy and supportive services.
Housing may be first, yet developing life skills, marketable job training, and economic opportunities for low-income adults follow pretty closely for this Social Enterprise. That’s why Pathlight Kitchen was developed, with its modern facilities and FREE 12-week Culinary Training Program.
When the world began changing in 2020 due to Covid-19, food industry jobs in this major tourist area declined, leaving many without opportunities to use their culinary skills in Orlando. What didn’t decline was the need for healthy food choices for the formerly homeless, disabled population living at Pathlight HOME. Food insecurity is still front and center in the community, perhaps even more so in the middle of a pandemic.
Thanks to the generous support of FareStart’s Catalyst Kitchens, Pathlight HOME residents are now assured a nutritious meal each week. Not only are meals funded, but also the two, part-time culinary positions needed to help prepare the healthy deliciousness. What a silver lining!
One of the hired staffers, a graduate of the Pathlight Kitchen Culinary Training Program, is thrilled to be working alongside of Chef Esteban Torres, using the many cooking skills he taught her, and getting paid for doing what she loves. “I thought I was a good cook until I went to the class,” she says of her newfound talents. “I’m just grateful it’s here. It’s helped me immensely.”
The top-notch culinary student was very grateful to be sought out to apply for this opportunity. A gentle, determined team member putting her life back together one day at a time, she shares that taking the hands-on culinary training course and being hired for this position by the Chef - where she’s responsible for much of the wonderful aroma in the kitchen of late - are bringing her “a step closer to feeling like a real person again.”
The other new culinary staffer literally lights up the room with his smile and his gratitude at having been referred for the position by Pathlight HOME’s Senior Property Manager, upon learning that his work hours and paycheck had been sliced in half due to Covid-19. As a Line Cook in a high-end, Orlando restaurant on International Drive, he is well-suited for the culinary duties and thrilled to be onboard. “I like cooking; and if it wasn’t for them [the office staff], I don’t know where I’d be,” he says. “I like being here.”
Having gotten his life back together from time spent in a homeless shelter, and loving his Pathlight HOME apartment, his part-time hours and well-earned paychecks from Pathlight Kitchen are a perfect antidote for his worry about not being able to pay his rent and bills on time during the restaurant hiatus. The position is also a constructive outlet for this appreciative team member’s emotional outlook during this time of masks and isolation. “Me sitting at home with nothing to do…I’d go crazy,” he explains.
Not only do these culinary team members take great pride in their craft, but also in their ability to provide neighbors with nutritious, delicious meals. “I want to feed everybody,” says one. “It feels good to contribute…to help out,” says her colleague.