For the last eight years, the organization has been repurposing misshapen or food that would otherwise be wasted and providing job training to those affected by addiction, incarceration, and homelessness to address the root causes of poverty and food insecurity.
“Hunger is not about food—hunger is a symptom,” explains Dana Frasz, Food Shift’s founder and director to Food Tank. “Hunger is about wages, power, and the high cost of housing, education, and medical care. To truly address hunger, we have to address these systemic challenges.”
The organization’s job training program is working to create permanent employment for those impacted by poverty and food insecurity. “While we need charity and emergency food assistance, these models haven’t solved hunger and we have a huge opportunity in this movement to develop and expand solutions that create economic value and invest in the people who have been most systematically oppressed,” explains Frasz to Food Tank.
Food Shift has graduated 25 people from their job training program so far, placing them into service industry jobs. “Seeing the transformation and growth of individuals who go through our program is one of the most inspiring and important elements of our work,” Frasz tells Food Tank. “One apprentice recently shared that she has a full-time job with benefits and a retirement account for the first time in her life. The love, intention, and commitment our chefs and team invest into each person in the program is what helps create these powerful outcomes.”
Based on rising demand for Food Shift’s catering services, the organization has begun to face challenges at meeting the requests they receive: “We are turning down food, people, and catering opportunities due to the limitations of our kitchen size and access,” explains Frasz to Food Tank.
Food Shift hopes this expansion will allow the organization to save more food, train more people, and continue its mission to address the systemic aspects of poverty and food insecurity. “Food is powerful and so much more than just nutrition – we can use it as a tool to educate, empower, connect, and uplift communities,” Frasz tells Food Tank.
Similar organizations have shown the model’s success in cities across the United States. “One of our biggest inspirations, DC Central Kitchen is employing 150 people, graduating 90 people each year from culinary training, and generating $9 million in revenue from their social enterprise catering,” says Frasz. “This is what’s possible in every city.”