Feeding Kids and Teaching Skills: In the Kitchen with Treasure Coast Food Bank

Apr 12, 2019

Christina Quarez, Chef Daniel Leavy, Krista Garofalo and Bob Benson
Credit Tania Ortega-Cowan

Things are literally cooking over in a new industrial kitchen at the Treasure Coast Food Bank in Fort Pierce.

KF: Full capacity running full three shifts a day with processing, we can do about 25 million pounds of produce a year. We’re not there yet but we can.

That’s Krista Garofalo talking about their relatively new on-site commercial kitchen and production plant.

KF: We prepare about 600 meals a day for the after-school meals program, for kids, so that they can eat. At the Boys & Girls Club in St Lucie county. We run our summer feeding program out of here, so we are feeding about 2500 kids a day in the summer.

The produce comes only from local Florida Farmers. The kitchen is also a benefit to all of us in the community.

KF: In a disaster situation, if the county or an entity needs emergency meals – you know they have staff over at the emergency management operations centers and they can’t leave and they need to have people come in, we can do about 100,000 prepared meals a day for them and anyone else who would need them, and obviously following a disaster, we can provide meals to people through those means as well.

They have a close relationship with the school district and provide sliced and diced produce for the cafeterias’ internal food programs. Many of them…

KF: …don’t have the capacity in some of their kitchens to have somebody there to chop up the carrots or dice up the tomatoes for whatever they are doing…

Another facet of the production plant is training for unemployed or underemployed people with little to no skills in food service to break into culinary arts careers. It’s called the Green Apron program, and over the next 8 years is expected to add about 2,400 jobs in food service, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

We put on hair nets and walk into a chilly environment where Chef Daniel Levi and his volunteers are cleaning vegetables in preparation for the day’s after-school meal of chicken fajitas made from scratch..

(sound going in)

TOC/KF/DL: Is this chef Daniel? That is Chef Daniel. Hello! Hello.

We ask him to tell us specifically about the Green Apron Program.

DL: It’s designed to give the students a knowledge base to go out and work in the industry. So at the end of the course – it’s a 12 week course – but at the end of the course they will leave with a Serve Safe Certification which is a managers level certification for safety and sanitation…

Students learn safety and knife skills, different types of cooking methods, so when they finish, they know how to roast, bake, steam, poach, sauté.

DL: At the end we go into a little bit of baking and pastry – which everybody loves that…that is everybody’s favorite part…

Volunteer Bob Benson is here chopping about 100 pounds of onions.

B/TOC: I am a CPA, retired, and I went to culinary school as part of my dream or what have you, and now I volunteer with two different organizations cooking. Beautiful! Oh that is making my eyes water – the onions.. hahaha. Stay in here a couple hours.. hahaha

On the way out we run into a recent graduate of the Green Apron program who now works in the kitchen for the Food Bank.

CQ: My name is Christina Quarez.

We ask her about what she has learned.

CQ: About the tempuratura for the food for the meat, that’s different for fish, for beef for chicken.. Everything…

TOC: Pastries?

CQ: Ay YA! Haha

And… they have a catering program housed out of here and proceeds benefit the FOOD BANK.

KG: … just like any other for profit caterer… customized menus, all different types of events from luncheons and business meetings to big galas..

Learn more here: https://stophunger.org/