The Grand Opening of Food For Thought Outreach’s Full Circle Kitchen is another step forward in the organization’s effort to end the cycle of poverty for the students they serve. The local nonprofit started with just 6 students in the Fall of 2010. With the growing demand in the community, Food For Thought estimates that they will expand to serve over 2,500 students in 27 schools in Okaloosa and Walton by the start of the 2017-2018 school year. Just in February, the organization took on two more schools in Okaloosa County.
The purpose of the Full Circle Kitchen is to provide high school students receiving Food For Thought services an opportunity to accept the support outside of their schools and away from the pressure of their peers.
Students will attend classes led by local cooks & chefs in a progressive model to take them from basic skills to cooking for themselves and their siblings.
With this style of experiential learning, the students will be able to take home what they prepare in class to eat along with ingredients to practice their skills. This will help to replace the food students receive via the in-school programs.
“It could make the difference for a lot of kids. Kids who might drop out and now they have the chance to make a difference in the community,” said Jim Pierce, Food For Thought Outreach supporter and Full Circle Kitchen Sponsor. Jim and Tammy Pierce, along with Howard Hospitality, and O.B. Laurent Construction sponsored the Full Circle Kitchen project.
While the kitchen will have all the high-level components a chef would expect, the Full Circle Kitchen will also have the materials that students would have in their real lives, items like a microwave, toaster oven and a universal pan.
Instructors will be able to first meet students where they are in life and empower them to cook at home regardless of their living conditions.
“By providing life skills, education, and potential job placement we will have seen these children from Kindergarten through graduation and ensured they have the skills to thrive and making a lasting impact on our community,” said Tiffanie Nelson, Founder & Executive Director of Food For Thought Outreach. “Our end goal is to advance their learning and skills as a path to job placement as restaurant jobs are in demand in our resort community. Even further down the line we hope to take the more engaged and talented students down a path for a scholarship to help them attend culinary school.”
In an effort to sustain the program, the Full Circle Kitchen will offer similar classes for students who are in a position to offer a donation for their class and their donation will support a class for a student in our program. This “one-for-one” model will reduce the budget impact of this new program and the demands on the organization. As Food For Thought’s Garden Initiatives mature, they look to incorporate the food grown in the gardens into this project as well.
“We have several schools on board that can provide their own transportation and we will open classes in the fall with our two highest risk schools coming in first.”
“This summer we will host a series of classes to help students and parents prepare for back-to-school with healthy breakfast & meal prep classes for students of all ages,” said Nelson.
Additionally, Food For Thought will host fundraising dinners in this special location to raise program dollars and awareness. Their first private dinner in the new space sold for $10,000 as an auction lot in their annual Art of Giving event held every September.