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A local partnership between students and corporate executives provides comfort food and a way to go outside comfort zones

Take 200 pounds of ground beef, 80 pounds of carrots, 120 pounds of potatoes and 400 cinnamon rolls. Add 26 Sprint employees, 23 students and one culinary arts instructor. Place in a classroom and allow to simmer for 3.5 hours. Recipe yields meatloaf dinner with all the trimmings for over 400.

That’s just what happened when Bob Brassard, a culinary arts instructor at Broadmoor Technical Center in Overland Park, Mo., teamed his students with his wife’s Sprint Corp. colleagues to feed the homeless.

Web Resources

  • Learn more about the Kansas City Community Kitchen by clicking here.
  • SkillsUSA's Advisor's Success Kit (ASK) 2000 covers the best ways to conduct a community service project in Chapter 14. Click here for details.

Sprint wanted to do a team-building exercise for its management staff, and Brassard wanted his students to understand the lifelong responsibility of community service. The instructor contacted the Kansas City (Mo.) Community Kitchen (KCCK) and offered the partnership project as a way to cover one of the kitchen’s evening meals.

Due to limited space at the kitchen, the cooking took place at the tech center. Using his food account contacts from school, Brassard acquired donations from local grocers.

Next, his crew had to prepare the meals. Sprint’s employees and Broadmoor students donned chef coats, aprons and hats and got started. Brassard’s students coached teams of Sprint employees, plus SkillsUSA members from graphic design, small-engine repair, commercial baking, food and hospitality, and computer networking.

“What was great was that they [Sprint employees] were asking the kids what to do. By taking the executives out of their element and into the kids’ element, the kids were able to realize just how much they actually do know,” Brassard explains. “This gives the kids a chance to start out having an understanding of what community service is. When you’re older, in a professional position, you still have that obligation in the community to help out. It was a good match.”

"We encourage young people to get involved...not only for the service they do to the community, but because they learn team building." - Jane Talley, shown with David Nichols (click photo for larger version)

Pastry arts student Stacy Severns worked as a floater, overseeing the crew of approximately 50 people. “It was kind of intimidating,” she remembers. “These people have graduated from college, and they have families of their own, and here I am with more skills than they have, and I’m telling them what to do. I’m only an 18-year-old! It was different!”

Jane Tally, executive director of the KCCK, welcomed the help. “We encourage young people to get involved,” she says. “We think it’s good for them, not only for the service they do to the community, but because they learn team-building. That’s really good for kids.”

In Kansas City, there are 15,000 in need of meals, according to Brassard. He got involved while working as an executive chef at a major restaurant. Back in school for his food and beverage degree, he was approached by the KCCK to create a curriculum to train those coming to the kitchen to get jobs. He designed a 12-week course on basic food preparation skills. It was there he discovered how he could have an impact on a generation.

“Working with this type of population is very emotional, because you want them to do so well, and you know that they have a history of falling,” he says.

“I realized that if I could teach high school and change somebody’s life before they end up like this, before they get out of school, then maybe I can save a few from coming here.”

Brassard left KCCK for Broadmoor, and the chef trainer at the kitchen is now David Nichols. Brassard still helps out at the kitchen, and having his students work there has made an impact.

Culinary arts student Tovia Cohen says working with the KCCK changed her outlook. “You don’t really realize the level of need. You don’t really go outside your comfort zone. Then you see how other people live and struggle. It’s a blow to you. You realize that the minuscule things that you fret and worry about are really not that big when you compare it to those who wonder where they’re going to eat the next day, and wonder if they’re going to have a place to go sleep at night.

“And this thing that you can give them, something to eat or listening to them or having a conversation with them not only helps you, but them, because it brings variance to the monotonous struggle of their lives.” End of story

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SkillsUSA Champions | Fall 2003 | Volume 38, No. 1
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