FareStart Reboots!

July 25, 2023

A New Era for Transforming Lives

FareStart is at a critical turning point in its history. With new leadership in CEO Patrick D’Amelio, exciting plans in the works, and a renewed focus on transformative job training programs that can grow to serve more students than ever, we are working to build back our organization after a long period of disruption due to the pandemic. We are counting on our community to support us through this important transition.

The future for FareStart will be familiar to longtime supporters in many ways – including a new version of Guest Chef Night, and stories of students who prevail over high barriers to success, but FareStart’s post-pandemic iteration will allow us to enter a new era of greater equity and more positive outcomes for our graduates and the community, with a plan to scale our impact in the future.


Social Enterprises, New and Old

What hasn’t changed: In addition to private event rentals that launched in this past Spring, the FareStart dining space will be re-activated later this year with a retail business that is adaptive to the current market in our area. As the FareStart Cafe in South Lake Union bustles with business, we are planning to reopen our café located in Beacon Hill's Pacific Tower to provide additional training to youth in our Barista & Customer Service Program. We will also continue the Community & School Meals Program. As always, the purpose of our businesses is to provide training for students, as well as to help support our mission with revenue -- this is FareStart’s longtime, proven model of social enterprise and one that has been validated with other successful nonprofits worldwide.

What is different: As a learning organization, we will keep experimenting with pilot projects with input from the greater community -- in food security, social enterprise businesses, job training and community building -- all with an eye on sustainability and greater outcomes for our students and graduates. FareStart’s first new pilot of this new era is a Value-Added Food Processing business. In this pilot, we are recovering and upcycling large amounts of perishable foods that would otherwise go to waste, transforming them into shelf-stable products, and selling them to other food organizations or companies for profit to support our programs. Our first venture involves turning recovered bread into croutons, with our students supporting the processing, baking and packaging of sample batches as part of their on-the-job training. Other new businesses will also be piloted in the near future.


Job Training Programs

What hasn’t changed: Our commitment to each student remains steadfast -- to provide transformational opportunities through self-empowerment and job training that bring pathways to personal stability and economic mobility. Each student entering FareStart still receives individualized case management and wraparound social services support, including housing, counseling and treatment for substance use disorder as well as mental and physical health care –-- everything people need to be successful in our programs. We have cohorts of students starting monthly, and we have expanded our enrollment outreach. Training is happening across all of our facilities located in South Lake Union, Interbay and Beacon Hill as well as our flagship location in downtown Seattle.

What is different: We have restructured the adult job training program, now called the Food Pathways Program, which is much more individualized to each student’s needs and goals. We will have the ability to add more pathways as we grow enrollment and our social enterprise businesses. All students are now compensated with stipends for their work in on-the-job training. We have kept our virtual training program for adults, which we developed during the pandemic. Students who enter our online-only program learn the basics of self-empowerment and employability that will serve them in any job setting. Students who enter our Food Pathways Program receive the same self-empowerment and employability training at the onset and then enter on-the-job training in one of our social enterprises. Our Barista & Customer Service youth programming is expanding to new populations. In addition to our partnerships with Gifts of Hope, Seattle Public Schools Interagency Academy and Nova High School, we are exploring partnerships with Seattle Goodwill, Highline School District, the Issaquah School District and Echo Glen Juvenile Detention Center/High School in Snoqualmie.


Food Security

What hasn’t changed: Our commitment to addressing food insecurity remains. We will continue to operate our Community & School Meals Program to provide healthy meals for communities in need, as we have since our founding over 30 years ago. In fact, this year we are producing meals close to the same level that we were in 2019 before the pandemic. We are also working to get back to a sustainable model of revenue generation that will make our meal program self-supporting again by 2024. We are aided in this effort by our food recovery program that helps lower our costs per meal and saves, uses or redistributes fresh food that would otherwise go to waste.

What is different: We piloted a mobile market that provides fresh produce and other essentials in our region, primarily in South King County where there are pockets of largely immigrant families and individuals who lack access to healthy food. In 2022, our Mobile Community Market delivered over 172,000 pounds of food to approximately 4,700 households, partnering with community organizations on the ground at six different sites in Auburn and Kent. This is now a successful and continuing program that people rely on, and we are working on integrating student training and social enterprise into the Mobile Community Market.


Community Engagement

What hasn’t changed: Volunteering, events and opportunities to support will continue to increase as we reimagine and reopen in this new era. As in the past, our community will continue to grow – new friends will join longtime supporters. We will expand partnerships with opportunity employers here and around the nation who can help with our training and job placement. We will continue to work with longtime partner organizations as well as support new ones, including Black, Indigenous and People of Color-led organizations so that we can break down barriers and build a more inclusive FareStart community.

Guest Chef Night will be back! We are currently planning and looking forward to announcing a rebooted Guest Chef Night in the coming months, with great food for guests, volunteer opportunities and a chance to connect with FareStart’s mission. Guest Chef Nights will at first be occasional until we find the right rhythm to meet demand, and some elements will be reimagined for a new era. Our Gala, which helps sustain our work to train students and feed our neighbors, will be back in person again this year on October 29 in the Skybridge at the Seattle Convention Center; it will focus on and raise funds for our mission.

What is different: Our engagement with the South King County community, its various underserved populations and the organizations that involve them, which began during the pandemic to increase food security, will move forward. We will also continue to offer volunteer opportunities -- some virtual and many in-person opportunities across all of our locations.


National Work

What hasn’t changed: FareStart provides communities and organizations around the country with assistance in replicating, improving or growing our proven model of food-based social enterprise job training. Over the course of our history, we have worked with over 284 organizations in 46 states, and that work continued virtually throughout the pandemic. Now we're doing more in-person consulting with staff providing training and direct consulting to clients based on our 30 years of experience with our model. Our consulting work is also a social enterprise in itself, with fees for services but often working at low-bono or no-bono to keep it affordable and equitably accessible.

What is different: Starting in early 2022, the Catalyst Kitchens network spun off from our organization. Catalyst Kitchens remains a great learning network of organizations doing like work around the country; FareStart is represented on its board, it is no longer a program of FareStart. The consulting work that FareStart has long done remains with us and continues to support many organizations as well as teach us more about the common work in its various iterations and with our different populations.

FareStart Consulting is also working with longtime partner MOD Pizza to build employer partnerships and increase access to “opportunity talent” for 20 workforce development programs both locally and across the country, including an exciting new project called the MOD Opportunity Network Accelerator.  We are also working more broadly with “opportunity employers” to find those companies who make the best employers for our graduates, providing access to career paths and support for workers who are rebuilding their lives.


Despite the many ways that the pandemic disrupted our usual way of working, our fundamental mission continues with a greater focus on individualized support, varied training pathways and increasing equity and opportunity. This year is a hugely important bridge year as we move from large amounts of public and emergency funding back to our shared-support model – balancing earned revenue and donations – that fuels student training in all our returning and new business ventures. We are currently seeking philanthropic and other investments to support the reinvention of our social enterprise businesses; until they are producing enough revenue to rebalance our funding model, we will be operating at a deficit and need the steadfast support of our community of donors, volunteers and partners to bridge the gap.

Once we are to the point of a balanced, sustainable budget again, our programs will be poised to grow and serve more individuals than ever. We hope you will join us in working through this last phase of the pandemic impact by lending your support to FareStart’s rebuilding. We can never succeed without the support of our community, and we are so grateful to have it!  Thank you for sharing our vision of an equitable and just world in which every individual has the opportunity to thrive. 

You can be part of FareStart’s vision that every individual has the opportunity to thrive. There are many ways to get involved:

  • Give a gift to support our work and/or help FareStart reboot the social enterprise businesses that support our training programs.
  • Attend our Gala on Oct. 29.
  • Include us in your will or estate plan and join our Legacy Circle.
  • Be a customer by visiting the FareStart Café in South Lake Union or renting our restaurant space.
  • Volunteer to help support students, promote food security or raise critical resources at fundraising events. We currently have many openings to volunteer for the Mobile Community Market, gleaning and the Gala.

Please visit farestart.org/get-involved for more information.