[Hpn] Shrewsbury, MA - Recipe for a second chance -- - Boston Globe - July 4, 2002

Editor Editor <hccjr@bellsouth.net>
Thu, 04 Jul 2002 07:21:38 -0500

Recipe for a second chance
In Shrewsbury, program offers culinary training, lessons in life.
Finding work is tough when your past, which includes drug
addiction and jail time, works against you

By Peter Schworm -  Boston Globe - July 4, 2002

Wayne Arsenault likes the idea of being a cook someday, though he isn't sure
it's possible.

Finding work is tough when your past, which includes drug addiction and jail
time, works against you, he says.

But at the new culinary training program at the Worcester County Food Bank in
Shrewsbury, where students train for jobs in the food-service industry by
preparing meals for a children's soup kitchen, adults are given a second chance,
Arsenault says, to help themselves by helping others.

''This isn't something you think you can do, with my background,'' said
Arsenault, a 31-year-old living in a transitional residential program in
Worcester. ''But these people are willing to work around it, these people want
to help you. We're giving back to the community but we're getting something out
of it at the same time.''

A dozen students just completed their first week of classes at ''A Fare Start,''
a 12-week program for adults who are referred to the class by food-bank clients
in the area. Some students are unemployed and looking for a new career; others
live in residential programs for adults with mental illness or developmental
disabilities and hope to break into the work force.

Jean McMurray, who directs the food bank, said the program looks to achieve two
worthy goals at once. Students, some of whom have received food from local
pantries in the past, will now return the favor by making meals to be delivered
to the Kids' Cafe, a weekly day-care and soup kitchen that serves 30 children in
Worcester. And by learning a trade, the students will move toward economic
independence, like the proverb of a man who, taught to fish, eats for a

''If someone who is hungry comes to us, we feed them,'' McMurray said. ''But
there's something to be said for looking at ways to find a longer-term solution.
Hopefully, after going through the program, they won't need to go back to the
food pantry.''

Surveying a new kitchen filled with gleaming pots, pans, and stainless-steel
counters, McMurray says food-bank officials have envisioned the class since
leasing their Route 9 warehouse four years ago. Corporate and individual
donations are paying for the program's $275,000 cost, which includes a $50
weekly stipend for students to pay for meals and transportation.

Students who have not held steady jobs and have received welfare or other public
assistance come to the class eager to give something back, says Lois Maitland
Paire, program director at the food bank. Being part of the solution, she says,
should help bolster students' skills, self-esteem, and confidence.

''Not everyone's going to walk out of here with a chef's hat on, but this gives
them a start,'' Maitland Paire says. ''These are people looking for a way to be

It's a motivated group - says Douglas McCrea, a chef who is teaching the class -
one anxious to start cooking. First they must learn the basics, but those who
complete the course will be state-certified in food-preparation safety, a
marketable qualification.

''It's a feather in their cap,'' he says. ''They're providing a service and also
receiving education that will help them personally and professionally.'

A centralized clearinghouse for area food pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless
shelters, the food bank last year delivered 4.2 million pounds of food to some
30,000 people.

Most of the food is nonperishable, but the bank sends perishable items to
residences. The bank serves 300 locations in Worcester County and several
communities along Interstate 495.

Russell Daggett, a 35-year-old living in a Worcester home for adults with mental
illness, heard about the class from his program director. Afflicted with bipolar
disorder, he had bounced around from job to job. This sounded like a better way,
he says.

''This came my way, and I took advantage of the opportunity,'' he says. ''I
don't have a lot of training, but I'm trying to better my life.''

The notion that most food-pantry recipients are homeless or on welfare, McMurray
says, is increasingly misguided. Some 38 percent of those receiving assistance
work, McMurray says, and the need for food assistance remains acute.

''The good times didn't affect everyone equally,'' McMurray says. ''There's a
surplus of food that exists, and there's a need. We're the bridge.''

This story ran on page W1 of the Boston Globe on 7/4/2002.
 Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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