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Fort Pierce program trains students for careers in food production industry

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Posted at 5:04 AM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 16:39:50-05

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — The Treasure Coast Food Bank is accepting applications for its next Culinary Training Academy. The 12-week job training program in Fort Pierce prepares graduates for careers in the food production industry. It’s designed to help them develop their skills and move into new roles.

As many struggle with employment during the pandemic, the program is meant to serve as an option for improving a person’s future potential.

President and CEO Judith Cruz says students will learn the principles of cooking, cleanliness, food service operation, and designing a menu. The course has been offered for 4 years, but it’s even more vital right now.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to really explore a second career. Even though the restaurant industry has been impacted greatly through the pandemic, there are many other service industries that are in need of people with this skill,” she said.

The academy’s newest 12-week session will feature both virtual and in-person learning at the Sunshine Kitchen in Fort Pierce. It starts Feb. 8, applications for the remaining spots are being accepted until the deadline on Friday, Feb. 5.

“They’re given all the essential skills that they need to either work within the culinary industry, or to help incubate their small business. So from soup to nuts, they learn nutrition, they learn food safety, they learn sanitation. If people are new to this field they’ll learn the skills that they need, the knife skills,” she Cruz said.

The program is accredited by the American Culinary Federation and aligned with the National Restaurant Association. Each student who completes the program may obtain the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe Food Protection Manager and the Manage First Nutrition 2.0 certification as part of the course.

“They’re getting meal preparation for our programs, they’re doing catering, we have a catering program that helps offset some revenue for the food bank. So they’re involved in all this. They’re doing budgeting and cost analysis and food ordering, so they really get a real life experience of what it’s like to run a successful business, and then the talent that’s needed to do mass food production. And really take care of how to get out hundreds or even thousands of meals out a day,” Cruz explained.

Natasha Morrison recently graduated from the Academy. The Treasure Coast Food Bank points to her experience as an example for what can be achieved. Morrison is a flight attendant and her hours were cut last year, so she took it as an opportunity to broaden her horizons in a new area where she and her father had passion.

“I am trying to walk in his footsteps and carry on his passion for food. For someone who does not know what direction their life is going, this program would be awesome,” she said in a recent release from the food bank.

Treasure Coast Food Bank provides scholarships for those who qualify to help with the program’s $250 administration fee that covers the students’ books, chef coat, and more. When you apply, indicate if you are in need of financial assistance.

Like so many other food banks across the country, the Treasure Coast Food Bank has worked hard to keep up with the massive demand during the pandemic. It also offers driver training courses in an effort to keep up with the needs for delivery drivers.

The Treasure Coast Food Bank is the only food bank and largest hunger relief organization on Florida’s Treasure Coast, providing the community each year with millions of meals in partnership with 400 charitable organizations in Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, and Okeechobee counties. For more information on the Treasure Coast Food Bank, call 772.489.3034 or log on to