Maricopa County, St. Mary’s Food Bank team to provide job resources

(Submitted Photo)

Maricopa County and St. Mary’s Food Bank are teaming up to help the homeless, formerly incarcerated and other low-income individuals gain job skills.

The Maricopa County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) presented a check to St. Mary’s for $40,000 Wednesday, Aug. 4 as part of a one-year grant for the St. Mary’s Community Kitchen program, which provides hands-on experience in the food service industry, according to a press release.

“The grant from the IDA to Community Kitchen is about giving more people the chance to reach their full potential,” Steve Chucri, District 2 chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said in a prepared statement. “When that happens, anything is possible and Maricopa County becomes an even better place to live.”

Steve Gallardo, District 5 supervisor, said everyone’s goal is to have a livable wage and he believes Community Kitchen can help others reach that goal.

“St. Mary’s has been a great partner to the county and I’m glad to see the relationship expand in a way that will make our community stronger,” he said in a prepared statement

Community Kitchen provides free vocational and life skills training, job placement and other assistance to help vulnerable, homeless, formerly incarcerated and other low-income people of all demographics secure and maintain employment in the food service industry, a release states.

“There are a lot of great jobs in the food service industry where hard work is rewarded and you can advance your career,” Supervisor Clint Hickman, District 4. said in a prepared statement. “With this program, St. Mary’s and the county are demonstrating a shared commitment to serving the underserved.”

District 3 Supervisor Bill Gates said the kitchen shows how a partnership can positively affect others and grow the economy.

“I’m impressed with the work being done in the kitchen and how culinary skills and life skills are integrated to provide people a new path forward,” he said in a prepared statement.

Community Kitchen will also serve unemployed people, those receiving government assistance, victims of violence, young adults (18-24) who want a culinary career but cannot afford college and people in addiction recovery programs.

“Community Kitchen gives people practical skills to find and keep a stable job and contribute to the community in a positive way,” Supervisor Denny Barney, District 1, said in a prepared statement

“This investment from the IDA will allow St. Mary’s to refine an already successful program and, ultimately, double the number of people being served.”

With the grant money, St. Mary’s plans to consolidate the program’s curriculum from 16 to 12 weeks; expand lessons; provide internship opportunities; and work with community partners to replicate the program so that St. Mary’s is nearly doubling the number of people being served.

“Our Community Kitchen Program changes lives daily. This grant from the IDA allows us the chance to strengthen and expand a program that already boasts hundreds of success stories,” St. Mary’s Food Bank President and CEO Tom Kertis said in a prepared statement.

“We appreciate the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors’ interest in furthering our mission and the chance to impact more people seeking a new start.”

“The IDA has focused on investing in programs that can improve quality of life everywhere, regardless of income, background, or zip code and Community Kitchen is a perfect fit,” Shelby Sharbach, executive director of the Maricopa County IDA, said in a prepared statement.

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