Chefs with a Purpose Connecting Resources

by Jacquelyn Linder Director Nutrition Programs, Virginia Peninsula Foodbank

Where can you meet other professional chefs and community kitchen directors excited about preparing and sharing fresh healthy food ideas for their communities? Where can you share cutting edge strategies for food preparation, delivery, wonderful recipes, and effective program management? Where can you meet industry leaders and gain invaluable contact information? Well, it’s at the Feeding America Community Kitchen Conference sponsored by TGI Fridays, of course! This year’s April 5th -7th conference was hosted at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida in Orlando, and it was jam packed with sensational people and presentations.

This conference is a unique opportunity for food bank industry chefs to share their expertise in providing successful job training for at-risk adults in need of work skills and professionalism. It goes without saying that this elite group of chefs and community kitchen directors are at the top of their game. A wealth of knowledge is shared with industry newcomers to include best practices that have been learned over the years. This is a unique food bank network opportunity because it’s all hands-on. From the delightful garnished breakfast to the exquisite elegant lunch and dinner, this conference allows our host to showcase their very best in food preparation and presentation.

Two great days of networking and group discussions provide limitless professional expansion. Visions of new and improved programs begin to grow, and many long lasting relationships are formed. Topics span everything from dealing with food waste, efficient kitchen design, and meal preparation to strategies for financial sustainability and fundraising for kitchens and culinary training programs. Besides the wonderful workshops, networking, and delicious food, a special keynote speaker is always a highlight at the conference.

This year Mr. Lee Cockerell, retired executive vice president for Walt Disney Resort, inspired attendees with a motivational and candid presentation on leadership, customer service and lasting legacies. Mr. Cockerell shared the many catalysts needed to provide a long lasting imprint on the work we do each day. One of the ingredients for success is to uphold expectations for yourself and others. He also discussed the value of time management and the essence of core values. Participants left energized and charged with enthusiasm to continue this good work.

This conference continues to expand and improve each year. As food banks extend programs to support community self-reliance, it has become an invaluable source for exchanging ideas and sharing both possibilities and successes. Communities flourish when food bank professionals increase their vision of the possible and the scope of their knowledge. We are already looking forward to 2018 where Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina will host.

Jacquelyn Linder is the Director of Nutrition Programs for the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank. Jacquelyn has worked for the foodbank for over eleven years and oversees the Child Nutrition Programs, Culinary Training, Nutrition Education and Food Safety training to the community. Jacquelyn has spent the past thirty years working with grassroots non-profit organizations to assist with the needs of our at risk neighbors.