'COOK' Program Training Low-income Stateliners for Careers in Food Industry

A luncheon held Monday demonstrated success of new job training program

ROCKFORD - A new Winnebago County Works initiative is getting Stateliners who otherwise would have difficulty finding work the training they need to find jobs in the food service industry.

21 students from the Rockford Rescue Mission or who live in public housing have already graduated from the COOK program, which stands for the Culinary Opportunity Outlook Kitchen.  It's a 3-week full immersion program where students learn everything from how to work in a kitchen, interact with customers, dress, and even wash dishes.  Most importantly, they receive valuable certification which allows them to work in the food service industry as well as job interviewing skills and access to employers who need employees.

At a luncheon on Monday at the Rockford Rescue Mission, many of the students showed off what they had learned, and while many conceded they still have a lot to learn, they say the program is an important first step.  Many already had job interviews lined up for entry-level food service positions.

Graduate Greg Ditsworth says, "I have been looking for a job for a while, haven't had much luck, and I'm hoping the certificates I get from this class will help change that."

Some in the class hope this is the first step towards big dreams and a brighter future.. Tamika Jones and Shacona Trammel are cousins who dream of opening their own restaurant one day. "We always wanted to go into business as cousins to open our own business called kitchen cousins and this opportunity came up."

The program is one of many new initiatives being spearheaded by the United Way of Rock River Valley focused on the Midtown and Ellis Heights communities in an effort to reduce poverty and crime.

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