Each year, a significant number of students transition through and age out of the special education programs of the various school districts of Lane County. Many lack the focused skills that prepare them to transition successfully to a traditional work setting. When these students reach 21, with their choices for independence in front of them, they would benefit from a program that prepares them in career paths designed to support their unique needs. In most cases, with an additional year or two of individualized supports by professionals, these young adults would have the opportunity to focus on skill development, as well as build their confidence in those enhanced skills.
Reality Kitchen Nonprofit is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization running a job skills training program supporting young adults who experience intellectual and developmental disabilities. We offer employment experiences paying a competitive wage operating a wholesale bakery and retail cafe.
Our Supported Staff and other participants are young adults who experience intellectual and developmental disabilities and come to learn skills that will help them achieve their goals of personal fulfillment, self-confidence and economic independence. They and are drawn from the greater community and range between 16 to 25 years of age. Most have asked to expand their knowledge and experiences learning to use technology in diverse ways. They understand that technology can give them the means to express themselves creatively and give them options that are not limited by their disabilities as well as expand their personal and professional goals, beyond playing video games.
Currently, in our wholesale bakery/retail cafe, they are learning barista skills, pouring coffee drinks for customers, mixing, scaling, shaping and baking breads and pastries; preparing and serving soups, salads, sandwiches and other daily specials. They are packing and delivering our product to the community’s most well-known and professional kitchens while gaining the back door into the area’s best food service businesses where they will seek future employment opportunities.
This unique training approach is reconnecting our Supported Staff and volunteers to their own potential building self-confidence, socialization skills and the ethic and emotional readiness that prepares them to join the area’s workforce. They are gaining the experiences needed to get and keep employment once they are ready.
We provide all individuals we serve with attention individualized to their unique skills and interests through job skills development and training, as well as alternatives to work activities designed to engage them imaginatively and creatively. For this reason, we remain committed to do more than dream of what “might be” and focus daily on making what “should be” their reality.
Giving our Supported Staff the skills and knowledge of the essential components of a successfully run kitchen, small or large, simply prepared or more complex, will be the core principal of our program.
Food card- getting a Food Handler’s Card is an important part of getting independent employment.
Basic meals- learning to plan, prepare and serve “the basics” is a life skill, as well as a job skill.
Snacks- good, healthy snacks that satisfy and nourish are important to know about, understand and prepare, as well as create!
Purchasing grocery– so many skills to teach, learn and employ in going to market, selecting produce and supplies.
Service Area Management– Cleanliness, organization, and responsibilities to co-workers, product and customers, as well as equipment use and management skills
Nutrition- understanding the values, importance and benefits of the food we eat, the way it is prepared and served.
Following recipes– recipes presented in picture form or text, made accessible and understandable will support the student’s success and understanding of the consistent preparation of the foods that they prepare and serve.
Measurements– another opportunity to reinforce math skills, tool use and choice making skills, as well as support understanding, goal setting and quality management skills.
Meal planning- from catering and specialty food preparation, to the full service management of the food carts, ‘planning’ brings many important skills to the front of daily conversations, decisions and choices that are both academic and part of the business day in which students will participate.
Budgeting- Beyond basic math skills, the underlying reasons for why we budget and how to budget effectively and responsibly will be covered.
Dishwashing- “The job’s not over till the paperwork’s done” and the skill building for being a clean, thorough and responsible worker is a vital part of a complete program.
Recycling- integrating the basics and importance of recycling will be a regular component of the program, with opportunities to learn the full cycle impact of making good choices.
Utensil identification- another basic skill supported and reinforced through daily use.
Kitchen Safety– putting into practice the basic skills and knowledge needed to make the kitchen a safe place to work and be and being competent in the use of fire extinguishers and other safety techniques that will make future employment more easily within reach to our students.
Work ethic / service skills- the opportunity to introduce theory and understandings of kitchen.
Practices and service techniques into the overall service model, an important skill to instill and teach in successful workers.
Field / Community Trips- Visiting other businesses in the community that model the skills and preparation/service techniques, approaches and systems that we will be teaching.