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2022 Grants Challenge

Culinary Training/Apprenticeships for Homeless Veterans

Idea by U.S.VETS

U.S.VETS is on a mission to end veteran homelessness. To achieve this, U.S.VETS will create a culinary training and apprenticeship program for veterans out of our Inglewood and Long Beach sites, which together serve more than 1,200 veterans daily. Creating this program will directly impact our veterans' ability to gain employment, increase their economic mobility, and create opportunities to educate veterans and families on becoming self-sufficient.

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What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Housing and Homelessness

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

South LA

West LA

South Bay

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Pilot or new project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

U.S.VETS was founded in 1993 with a goal to end veteran homelessness. We have grown from a single facility in Inglewood, serving five homeless Vietnam veterans, to a national organization, including two residential sites in Los Angeles County (Inglewood and Long Beach) and a service center in Downtown Los Angeles. Through the provision of housing, employment, mental health, and other wraparound services, we annually impact more than 10,000 veterans and family members in Los Angeles County. With our years of experience, we know that comprehensive, wraparound services are necessary for helping veterans get off the streets. Employment is a key component of our work, as it is a primary driver of a veteran's ability to obtain housing, take care of their families, and achieve economic stability. This program leverages our current workforce development programs to bring new training opportunities for veterans in our community in the culinary industry.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Employment is a cornerstone of our work to end veteran homelessness at U.S.VETS, and we continually seek ways to leverage our existing resources to expand job opportunities for the veterans we serve. One way we aim to achieve this is by creating a culinary training program out of the commercial kitchens at our locations in Inglewood and Long Beach. The program will include classes for clients to obtain both culinary skills and industry certifications (e.g. food handling, safe serving). This program will operate in collaboration with existing employment programs on campus, with the goal of placing 120 veterans in jobs, including in the culinary industry, during the grant term. The opportunity to offer this program to veterans living on-campus, using existing facilities and staffing resources, will allow U.S.VETS to make an immediate impact and meet increased need for employment services and career pathways.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

U.S.VETS' vision is a future without veteran homelessness, eliminating it now and preventing the factors that will contribute to veteran homelessness in the future. With such a diverse and thriving food industry in Los Angeles, and opportunity to leverage U.S.VETS' existing resources, launching this program will make an immediate impact on getting our veterans into jobs and off the streets. This program will directly impact a veteran's job prospects and economic trajectory through direct training/certifications; meanwhile, skills learned through the program will also translate to increased culinary knowledge, nutrition, and food preparation -- all contributing to a veteran's self-sufficiency and quality of life. We hope that by starting with this culinary program, we will be able to develop relationships to start offering additional food nutrition and wellness classes, further creating impact on our target population.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

U.S.VETS has successfully launched a similar program in Arizona, leveraging an existing on-site commercial kitchen to create a culinary training program. Success will be measured by trainings/certifications achieved by veterans, as well as job placements and associated increases in income and quality of life. We also hope that this program will lead to expansion overall in food nutrition and wellness education for our veterans. By creating the structure and developing relationships with the community, we anticipate this program also allowing us to create more of these opportunities. Led by volunteer chefs or our own staff, examples of educational sessions include food label literacy, shopping tips, sample daily and weekly menus, substitutions of healthier ingredients in recipes, portion control, and other aspects of healthy eating.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 120

Indirect Impact: 300