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Food Bank Program Helps Feed The Needy While Training Chefs

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The Maryland Food Bank is our state's number one source of food for the needy. Now it's also helping train a new generation of food professionals.

The FoodWorks program, a collaboration with the Community College Of Baltimore County, gets men and women interested in the food industry ready to work in a hotel, restaurant or open their own catering business.

It's accredited, tuition-free and it happens in the kitchen at the Maryland Food Bank.

Chef Manny Robinson runs the kitchen like a tight ship.

"Work smart and work hard," he told his students today when WJZ's Denise Koch was visiting.

In 12 weeks, the chefs-in-training learn what it takes most culinary schools 20 weeks to teach.

All the food is donated by local farmers, Perdue and McCormack.

It's a win/win: All the food the students cook is distributed to the agencies that rely on the Maryland Food Bank for meals.

Some of the students have cooked before.

"I'm a baker and cake decorator, self taught," a woman named Gayle said. "And I felt like getting the culinary training would help to expand what I already know and do."

Some are new to the kitchen.

"Learning how to cut without cutting yourself was really a challenge for me and I'm still learning without cutting my knuckles off," said Markita.

Once its made, the food is packaged, boxed and distributed by volunteers.

About 1,500 people will eat today because of what's happening in the FoodWorks kitchen and about 90 percent of the students obtain employment almost immediately upon graduation.

In the five years since it was started, FoodWorks has graduated 190 men and women.

To attend an informational session about getting involved with FoodWorks, email or call 410-737-8282 ext. 231. Spots are on a first-come, first-served basis.

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