Early in 2008 when Belinda DiGiambattista first came up with the idea for what was to become Butter Beans, she knew that she needed to increase her knowledge of the food service industry.
She turned to her new found friend and mentor Paul Neuman, an experienced and renowned caterer and Chairman of the Board of The HOPE Program He suggested she contact the HOPE program in regards to searching for staff to serve lunch in her schools. Thus began a relationship that has grown and strengthened over the years.
Just as Butter Beans serves a unique and necessary niche for school lunches and wellness nutrition, the HOPE program does the same for the unemployed and underserved. Located in downtown Brooklyn, the HOPE program creates opportunities for New Yorkers living in poverty or less-than-ideal situations to achieve economic self-sufficiency through employment and advancement.
Their Food Works program consists of 8 weeks or 100 hours of intense training in all facets of the food service industry. Students who qualify learn food and worksite safety, food prep skills and are given the information necessary to complete the Food Protection Certificate exam as well as the OSHA 10 certificate for general worksite safety.
Incoming students must pass a rigorous admissions test, demonstrating basic knowledge of English and math. They also must show up from 9 – 5 daily to learn necessary skills such as computer training, resume writing and interviewing. After they have completed the required training they are placed as working interns with one of HOPE’s many partners.
Butter Beans, LiLac Chocolate, Murray’s Cheese, Finanicer, and Brooklyn Seltzer Boys are just a few of these organizations. Janis Quarles, Business Development Manager for HOPE says that the HOPE students have a 73% placement rate and once they are hired at one of HOPE’s partner businesses they are offered continued support with other life skills.
Butter Beans currently has 10 HOPE graduates on staff. That is roughly 30% of all Butter Beans on-site school staff. Belinda describes the relationship as “special” and says that one of the many reasons she loves having students from HOPE intern for Butter Beans is that the internship process enables the students to get familiar with the Butter Beans philosophy and allows both parties to determine if they are a good fit while offering real world training for the intern.
The mutual respect between the partners is clear as it continues to grow. Eight years later Belinda describes Janis as “wonderful” and Janis says Belinda is “amazing”. I can attest that both speak the truth.
On a personal note, in my role as Supervisor for a Butter Beans school client, I had the opportunity to conduct working interviews with several HOPE interns (all of which have since been hired). I was impressed by the professionalism, skills and knowledge they brought to the kitchen. Both organizations advocate and support sustainability of our most important resources: food and people.
Empowerment, integrity, dignity and professionalism. Exemplified in this on-going and amazing partnership. And again, I am so proud to be a part of this evolution!
This post was written by Tammy Chalala, Butter Beans Food Service Supervisor