NEW BRIGHTON (KDKA) - A Beaver County nonprofit is cooking up some hope in this week's edition of the KD Sunday Spotlight.
Crop & Kettle is a unique culinary program that helps people overcome adversity and find their purpose in life.
Bright futures are prepped and cooked in the Crop & Kettle kitchen in New Brighton, but it's not just a culinary training program, it's so much more.
Starting from scratch, students learn basic cooking skills and how to whip up recipes from a variety of cultures.
"Providing transformative life training through workforce training and life skills to people that are trying to overcome past barriers to employment. Those could include a variety of things, financial, housing, criminal histories, addictions, mental illness, and disabilities," said Tim Iman, the founder and executive director of Crop & Kettle.
Iman grew up on a farm in Evans City and that's why he created Crop & Kettle, a nonprofit that uses a farm-to-fork approach.
"We intentionally partnered with a number of farms that are in the surrounding areas so students are connected to all the resources that are right around them," he said.
That's where students' skills take root - at the community garden and greenhouse.
"That way students are able to see direct connections from one to the other, they might literally be harvesting something one day that they use in the kitchen the very next day and being able to notice the differences of color, taste, smell, all those things of what they just pulled out of the ground and things they grew with their own two hands," Iman added.
The program's first cohort was in 2019 and now Iman has three other staff members and they have since moved to a larger space.
The 16-week program plants a seed of confidence in students. He said every day they dedicate time to social development, the most transformative part of the program.
"It's walking head-first into some often uncomfortable conversations of the things that have been barriers in the past," he explained. "Ultimately what's been going on in the head and the heart so that when you leave the program and life continues to present challenges to you, there are just some different mental and emotional mindsets about how to handle those things going forward."
Marla Duncan graduated from Crop & Kettle in 2021, she started cooking when she was six as a way to help her late mother who had M.S.
She said learning the basics at the start of the program wasn't easy.
I actually thank Crop & Kettle for humbling me, because I thought I knew it all when I went in there like, 'I can cook, this is it,' and then when I got in there, I'm just like 'maybe I can't like I thought I could,'" she recalled.
She was the kitchen manager at the nonprofit Uncommon Grounds in Aliquippa and there were some bumps in the road, but she wanted more for herself and her sons.
With the right ingredients and support, she opened her own restaurant, Marla's House, in Ambridge about two months ago.
"Marla's House is pretty much like home, we have pictures of family everywhere, all our menu items are named after my aunties, my grandma, my mom, and my boys work there, and family pretty much works through there with me," she said. "It's really the taste of home like it all cuisine of like grits, salmon croquettes, just the southern stuff that you're used to seeing your grandma eat."
At the end of the program, the students host a graduate dinner gala to prepare and serve their new skills.
"I just thank Crop & Kettle for humbling me, showing me a humbling experience but also just sticking with me along the way," Duncan said.
Iman said Crop & Kettle has a 96 percent success rate placing students in employment after graduation.
"The thing that's probably most important to us is helping each one of those students find their sense of confidence, a sense of value and worth within themselves by the time they leave the program," Iman said.
If you're interested in attending the next graduate dinner gala, it's on December 14 at their location at the Beaver County YMCA Commons and you can register on the Crop & Kettle website at this link.
There are also three raining programs per year and you can get registered for those programs right here.
If you would like to see an organization highlighted in KDKA's Sunday Spotlight segment, send Jessica Guay an email at email@example.com
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