Training program

Culinary training program Food Employment Assistance to work in difficulty Arkansans


Food Jobs Work, a North Little Rock culinary workforce training program, reignites efforts to place at-risk adults and youth in downtown food and beverage jobs of Arkansas.

The nonprofit initiative has a proven track record in developing job skills for Arkansans who have difficult backgrounds that could cause employers to reject them for jobs. Food Jobs Work also strengthens life skills training which increases opportunities for participants to get a second chance.

The program is a collaboration with Our House Shelter, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and the Little Rock Workforce Investment Board / Rock City Re-entry program.

Food Jobs Work is Arkansas’ only member of Catalyst Kitchens, a national organization dedicated to empowering those at risk through training the culinary workforce. Catalyst Kitchens offers workshops and technical support to organizations that train people who face barriers to employment in the restaurant industry.

Last month, Food Jobs Work graduated its 11th cohort after a six-week training program. Upon graduation, students are presented with the knives they used in class. Participants are trained in sanitation, knife techniques and learn to blow up, among other trainings. The program graduated 88 trainees out of the 96 initially enrolled in the cohorts.

The initiative also focuses on training soft skills in areas such as motivation and communication so that students understand the positive attitude they will need to be effective at work and to work cooperatively with their colleagues.

“This program is not limited to training restaurant workers,” said founder Christie Ison. “It’s about… getting rid of self-limiting thoughts and behaviors so that people can start believing in themselves again.”

Little Rock restaurateur Scott McGhee, who owns and operates several restaurants in the city, has hired graduates from Food Jobs Work and says interns are ready for jobs in the industry.

Interns help produce a commercial hummus product, the Comeback Kitchen brand, which is sold at area farmers’ markets in Argenta in North Little Rock, Bramble Market, and the White Water Tavern market, among others. Comeback Kitchen hummus is also available at retailers such as the Green Corner Store and Stratton’s Market at Dugan’s Pub. Profits go to Food Jobs Work.

Now, Ison has focused on revamping the organization’s charter to make it more attractive to foundations and other investors who can enhance training efforts in the future. She’s working to turn Food Jobs Work into a public charity designation by the IRS.

More information is available at


Three minority-owned businesses from Little Rock and a mentor were recognized last week for their contribution to business development in central Arkansas. The awards were presented on Monday at the Minority Business Awards Luncheon, which celebrated the 39th annual Minority Business Development Week.

The event honors the diversity of the Little Rock regional business community and recognizes minority business leaders who excel in their field.

Plush Homes Co. Realtors won the Emerging Business of the Year award; K Scott Consults was the Company of the Year; J Kelly Referrals was recognized as Wealth Business of the Year; and Kim Vu-Dinh of the Bowen School of Law at the University of Little Rock, Arkansas, received the Business Mentor of the Year award.

Minority Business Development Week was designated by presidential proclamation in 1983 to promote the achievements and contributions of minority-owned businesses.


Winrock International received a $ 900,000 grant from the Center for Racial Equity to provide business development support to black-owned e-commerce and wholesale businesses in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The grant comes at a critical time. Recent studies have shown that the economic crisis caused by the pandemic has disproportionately affected black businesses and other minority-owned businesses in the United States, in part because they have more difficulty obtaining loans. to businesses than to non-minority businesses.

Winrock said he would use the funds to help business owners find, prepare and tap new sources of capital to support and grow their businesses.

“Many businesses struggled during the pandemic, but small black-owned businesses in the southern retail sector were hit particularly hard,” said Linsley Kinkade, senior director of US programs at Winrock. “With funding from Walmart, Winrock’s Small Business Preparedness for Access to Capital Program directly addresses some of the most pressing needs of black-owned businesses reeling from covid.”

The funding will augment Winrock’s efforts to connect entrepreneurs with potential loan, grant and investment opportunities.


Westrock Coffee Co. promises to ensure that 100% of its coffee and tea will be responsibly sourced by 2025. Today, around 61% of Westrock’s coffee and tea comes from 35 agricultural origins.

“While our hands-on approach to working with our farmer partners and customers remains the same, we are honored by the opportunity to expand this to 173 million pounds of coffee and tea globally,” said Matt Smith, Westrock Coffee executive vice president of sourcing. chain and sustainability efforts.

Westrock Coffee is developing a global supplier assurance framework in partnership with the Committee on Sustainability Assessment and the British Standards Institution to achieve the 100% target. The program will verify the compliance of its entire supplier network with Westrock Coffee’s responsible sourcing policy.

Westrock will deploy more staff in key supply chains to quantify the social, environmental and entrepreneurial impact of coffee and tea at the origin.

“Westrock Coffee illustrates how businesses, with strong commitment and the right tools, can be an important agent of positive change,” said committee chair Daniele Giovannucci. “These efforts to foster transparency in the pursuit of more ethical and sustainable supply chains not only deliver new value to customers, but also advance the coffee industry as a whole.”

Westrock said the sustainability effort is part of its commitment to purchasing and treating all products in a way that is fair to the people who grow and handle them, their employees, their peers and their environments.

Ideas for columns or recommendations? Any thoughts or reflections to pursue? Contact me at [email protected] or at (501) 378-3567.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.