Supporting FareStart Students Through the COVID-19 Crisis

April 17, 2020

The day COVID-19 forced a pause in our job training programs, FareStart made a promise to continue supporting our students during this unprecedented crisis. And we have and we will — for as long as it takes, because we are committed as ever to investing in people and building community to transform homelessness, hunger and poverty into human potential.

We remain in close contact with students, meeting by phone or videoconference once a week, more often when needed. We’re covering housing costs and feeding students with to-go breakfasts, lunches and dinners through our ramp-up of emergency meals. We’re offering employment assistance that has helped many people get hired at grocery stores, home-delivery services, office cleaning companies and at other in-demand jobs.

Every time we check in with students, they amaze us with their courage, resilience and determination. 

“Our students are doing really well. I’m so proud of their commitment to the work they’re doing to change their lives in the midst of this challenging time,” says Richard Miller, who oversees enrollment and social services for the FareStart Adult Culinary Program.

A highlight of the past few weeks: students’ grateful response to the care packages we sent them full of nutritious snacks, candy, socks, soap, and shampoo, lotion, razors, deodorant, journals, crossword puzzles, coloring books and more. 

In all, the suspension of our job training programs has affected 53 enrolled students in our Adult Culinary and Foodservice Apprenticeship Programs and a dozen in our Youth Culinary and Youth & Young Adult Barista Programs.

Through our partnerships with Sound and Recovery Café, we’re helping our adult students take care of their mental health and stay connected to recovery groups. 

With our youth students, we’re reaching out to answer questions and share resources for mental health services, health care, housing, childcare, food, and other support services.
We’ve temporarily hired several youth barista students to help with emergency meals at our South Lake Union kitchen. 

We’re stepping up to support FareStart graduates as well, hiring more than a dozen people as temporary staffers on the front lines of our emergency meals effort, and plan to bring in more as we continue to scale up meal production.

We’re connecting graduates who have been laid off to employer partners like Grand Central Bakery, PCC, Operation Sack Lunch, Lifelong Chicken Soup Brigade and Swedish Medical Center.

We’ve rallied support from the Stand Together Foundation, which will provide cash assistance for up to 70 FareStart graduates. We’re also connecting graduates with assistance through The Plate Fund, which is helping King County restaurant workers.

Every day brings new opportunities to continue supporting our students and preparing for the day we can welcome them all back and resume our comprehensive and personalized job and life skills training programs. 

“We are 100% committed to ensuring that our students get the training they need to be successful — as professionals and in life,” says JoAnn Bowditch, Director of Training Programs.