The Trenton Junior Chef Program (TJC) started as a summer program in 2015, in direct response to youth-related violence in the City of Trenton at the time. This program, which started as a pilot program funded and supported by the Trenton Health Team (THT) and Shiloh Baptist Church, has evolved since then.
During the summer, our ServSafe-certified Junior Chefs took to the streets, applying skills acquired from their schools’ culinary arts programs. They catered several functions, including an event for the Black Issues Convention held at Thomas Edison State University; a dinner for the Latin American Legal Defense Fund, and a barbecue at the Princeton Farminary. “The TJC program is an outstanding career pathway for local youth interested in the hospitality industry that encompasses management, financials, IT, and culinary arts,” said Michael Taylor, VP of Operations for Thompson Hospitality’s Johnson & Johnson account.
The catering revenue from the events pays the youth stipends, and is invested back into the program. Program sponsors such as PNC Bank and the Community Foundation of New Jersey make it possible to accomplish our goals, which are to:
1) ensure that at-risk youth gain valuable skills that will prepare them for their careers and entrepreneurship;
2) empower community members to aim for healthy food choices through local farmers’ markets;
3) improve the quality of life for youth that are at-risk of conflict with the law, and
4) improve participants’ math and literacy skills
The TJC participants also had a very busy fall, catering events as well as shadowing master chefs at local corporate sites. They provided catering support at Isles, Inc.’s Fall Fest in October. Furthermore, they will start the Faith in Prevention training – a program operated by THT and funded by the New Jersey Department of Health that encourages healthy lifestyle choices and aims to reduce the burden of chronic disease among communities of faith. Our young leaders will apply this knowledge when preparing meals for houses of worship, and will also use it as a tool to train their peers on the role of food in developing a healthy mind and body.
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