Posted by: Francis Koster Published: December 12, 2009

Culinary Arts Program for Ex-Offenders Places 85% of its Graduates!

 Program for Former Prisoners and Recovering Substance Abusers Places 85% of its Graduates in Jobs

by Jonathan Kennedy

 With an annual budget of $250,000 the Community Culinary School of Charlotte (CCSC) trains an annual average of 50 former prisoners, recovering drug addicts and other hard core unemployables, with astonishing success. While most people with this kind of life history would usually have a difficult time finding work, CCSC graduates enjoy an 85% employment rate, and a 6 month job retention rate of 86%. And during their training program they prepare 5000 meals for other social service programs each week!

The school trains these individuals for careers in the food service and hospitality industries while supporting various food-based charities through meal preparation and manual labor.

Students for the program are recruited from social service agencies, homeless shelters, halfway houses, the court system and work release programs. Candidates for the training are adults who have experienced barriers to employment such as addiction, incarceration and homelessness but who are struggling to break the chains of poverty.

Since June of 1998, CCSC has graduated over 640 people and has an 85 percent placement rate. Graduates have been placed in local restaurants, country clubs, retirement centers and institutional food establishments. When compared to similar programs across the country, this high success rate is attributed to the confidence and dignity gained by the students as they learn the skills that place them on the road to self-sufficiency.culinaryarts1

The fee for the school is based on the barter system. Students pay for the school by supporting several local charities. In a model collaborative partnership, Friendship Trays, the Society of St. Andrews and Community Culinary School of Charlotte (CCSC) joined forces. The three separate agencies salvage fresh food that would otherwise be discarded from local farms, route it through the CCSC for preparation, feeding the home- bound poor and addressing unemployment. Nicknamed the “Nutrition Coalition”, this three-pronged approach is supported and embraced by the community. The Nutrition Coalition delivers 2.5 million pounds of food annually to 125 charitable groups in the Charlotte area.

The culinary school program has an annual budget of $250,000. Their partner, Friendship Trays, delivers an average of 600 meals per day prepared by the trainees. Two-thirds of the recipients live in poverty and are unable to pay full price. Nearly everyone pays something, but donations make up the difference.


As part of the enrollment process, CCSC asks students for two types of loyalty. The first loyalty is to the culinary profession CCSC trains the students in. The students must display a dedication to the school’s mission of education and service. The second loyalty is to the place of business where CCSC helped the student secure a job. As students are matched up with area businesses, they must be diligent in their work and be an ambassador to the school’s cause. CCSC’s mission fosters a sense of community by encouraging dedication to the profession, sources of livelihood, and local charities.culinaryarts3


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Student statistics


1997- 2009



Employment rate


6 mos. Job retention


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Community Culinary School of Charlotte

Chef Ron Ahlert

2401-A Distribution St.

Charlotte, NC 28203

704 375 4500

Friendship Trays

2401-A Distribution St.

Charlotte, NC 28203

voice 704-333-9229

fax 704-333-5947

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Francis P. Koster Ed.D.

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