Youth culinary program passes through Rockford City Council, but not without concerns

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Some Rockford students will have more resources at their disposal to prepare for a successful future. A vacant building along Rockford’s Miracle Mile will soon be home to a culinary arts program.

We were at Monday’s City Council meeting where some aldermen said they still have questions about the project.

“it would just redo the kitchen, bring it up to standards for the Department of Labor and the American Culinary Federation,” said Awaken 815 Foundation founder Jurea Crudup.

The former Imperial Palace restaurant on Rockford’s Miracle Mile will soon see a facelift.
Monday, the city council approved a $300,000 loan to help the Awaken 815 Foundation renovate the vacant building.

“The program itself has a lot of merit. It has goodness into it. It’s connected to the school district, to the workforce connection, that kind of thing,” said Rockford’s 10th Ward Alderman Franklin Beach. (R).

The Awaken 815 Foundation runs an 8-week culinary apprenticeship program to prepare local students for a career in the hospitality industry. They partner with the College of DuPage to teach students the skills they need.

“We also are developing a program to be able to sustain job readiness, with a different understanding of what it is to go forward and become an entrepreneur. To own your own food truck- whatever it is the student is planning moving forward,” said Crudup.

Previously, students had been bussed to the school to participate in the program. But with the money from the city, they’ll be able to set up their own space. Crudup says it will help the program expand and support more students than it has in the past.

“We are very excited about bringing it here to Rockford. We are also excited that it is going to be able to be a one-stop program. It’ll be able to just be here and we’ll be able to build it out here in Rockford,” she added.

But not all city leaders are sold on the decision. The loan was approved by a split 10-4 vote.
Some believe using money from a TIF district to help finance the renovation is a mistake and are worried about a proposed restaurant that would share the same kitchen with the Awaken 815 Foundation.

“That is the issue I’ve always addressed here. And then we’ve learned here that there might be some other ramifications in terms of another business being a part of that, that needs to be vetted yet,” said Ald. Beach.

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