Empowering Returning Citizens to Build Careers with Food


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Growing Inclusive Restaurants

On June 26th, was honored to host a panel of experts on the food industry and second chance employment at our Growing Inclusive Restaurants workshop. We'd like to thank our amazing panel, engaged attendees, and of course our fabulous event host/caterer for making the event such a success.

In case you missed it, or would like a refresher, check out our event video! 


The NOW Program equips returning citizens with the necessary tools to navigate the difficult transition to mainstream and full-time employment. The program assists with resume preparation, job interview techniques, and transportation access, teaches Moral Reconation Therapy® and provides motivation and support during 90 days of transitional, part time employment within Goodwill’s onsite business operations. The program achieves exceptional results, with 70% of all program participants obtaining full-time permanent employment within 90 days.


CALA restaurant is the San Francisco debut of celebrated Mexico City chef Gabriella Camera and is setting a new standard for Mexican fine dining in the city. Largely behind the scenes, general manager Emma Rosenbush has turned San Francisco’s tough labor market into an opportunity for returning citizens in San Francisco. As the primary recruiter, trainer and manager of a 50% prior-incarcerated staff, Emma has proven their hiring practices can lead to  success in fine dining, and has generously agreed to share her expertise with you.


The Reentry Resource Center is a ‘one-stop-shop’ that facilitates successful reintigration for Santa Clara County’s returning citizens. The center employs evidence-based practices to strengthen families, reduce recidivism and build safer communities through a seamless system of services, supports and supervision.


The Fresh Starts Culinary Academy is a tuition free, ten week, American Culinary Federation certified program that prepares Homeward Bound residents and low income community members for careers in the culinary industry. The course teaches food preparation and safety, recipe sizing, knife skills, service, workplace standards, teamwork and conflict resolution. The program is a model member of the Catalyst Kitchens network, and incorporates significant hands-on work experience to prep graduates for success.


The foundation is the nonprofit arm of Dave’s Killer Bread, a successful national brand employing 30% formerly incarcerated people. The foundation works to promote background friendly hiring practices by organizing second chance employment summits, producing informational content, and facilitating the second chance network.  The programming developed by the foundation helps employers develop a more complete understanding of the why and how to implement Second Chance Employment within their organizations.


Ephraim is the California employer coordinator for RAISE, a community of over 200 employer members of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. RAISE members are committed to professionalizing the industry, increasing wages and improving working conditions and standards for America's restaurant workers.


Our workshop will took place at the flagship campus of the Center for Employment Training, a highly successful nonprofit, community-based, skill training center, with 13 branch campuses. CET teaches trade skills in growing fields, and provides supportive services and job placement assistance to help lift people out of poverty and into a brighter future.


Left to Right: Ellen, Ephraim, Nellie, Pablo, Paul, Emma, Genevieve

Left to Right: Ellen, Ephraim, Nellie, Pablo, Paul, Emma, Genevieve

Ellen Hong
Fresh Starts Academy: Quality Culinary Education For All

HomewardBound of Marin has a wonderful program called Fresh Starts Culinary Academy. They provide American Culinary Federation Certified professional training to low income residents of Marin County, free of charge. They've changed an incredible number of lives for the better in past few years and are continuously improving their programming based on the input from their industry advisory team.

Check out this awesome testimonial from one of their graduates, then join us on June 26th to ask some questions!

Ellen Hong
The Goodwill NOW Program Prepares Returning Citizens for New Careers & New Lives

When people return to San Jose from prison, many are ready for a permanent change, but an incarceration record can make it hard to find a good job. The New Opportunity Work Program at Goodwill of Silicon Valley helps returning citizens get on the right track with 90 days of transitional employment. The program helps participants establish new habits, learn workplace standards and get their feet under them with a part time salary. Program staff support and mentor participants to help them prepare for applications, interviews and careers with area employers. 

Hear about the NOW Program's success from program manager Shelby Mason and learn how you can hire their graduates at FoodSchool's Growing Inclusive Restaurants panel event on June 26th! 

Ellen Hong
Emma Rosenbush, CALA General Manager and FoodSchool Event Panelist

The FoodSchool team is very excited to announce that Emma Rosenbush will be joining our expert panel at the Growing Inclusive Restaurants event on June 26th! 

If you aren't familiar with her work, Emma is the General Manager of CALA, a San Francisco fine dining restaurant founded by renowned Mexico City chef Gabriela Cámara. While the restaurant has been making waves by redefining how San Francisco diners view Mexican Seafood, Gabriela and Emma have been quietly breaking down another set of preconceptions. About 50% of their staff have backgrounds of addiction or incarceration and they actively recruit through organizations like Delancy Street and the San Francisco Adult Probation Department. Although they have faced challenges training team members with little to no fine dining experience, they're making the hiring practice work, and insist it was a practical decision that isn't really that radical. 

"My issue was: How the hell are we going to get people to wait on our guests in a more welcoming manner? And Emma, who had worked at a prison law office, was like, You know, there are all these ex-cons that can never find jobs. And the probation department has all these programs that want to help people get jobs. And people don’t really have other chances, because most people don’t want to deal with ex-cons."
- Gabriela Cámara via Lucky Peach

You can hear more from Emma through this feature, or listen to her interview on the Delicious Revolution podcast, but if you'd like to ask your own questions, that rare opportunity is coming to San Jose on June 26th! 

Sign up for Growing Inclusive Restaurants and start thinking of your questions for Emma now!

FoodSchool Reports on the Second Chance Career Movement on

Hi All,

Our communications lead just wrote a great overview of how businesses across the state and the nation are implementing background friendly hiring practices to grow their communities, their culture and their bottom line. 

Check it out at FoodTank or read below:

California is the Center of the Second Chance Career Movement

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The U.S. prison population has been growing for decades. At 66 prisoners per 10,000 citizens, our per capita prison population is six times higher than in 1975 and surpasses every country except the island nation of Seychelles.

One in every 37 Americans were under some form of correctional supervision at the end of 2015. We spend approximately US$31,000 per prisoner every year to keep prisoners incarcerated in the federal prison system.

With so many Americans involved in the criminal justice system and the cost of incarceration so high, providing job opportunities and support systems for people after they return home is essential to ensuring they successfully reintegrate into the community.

The food industry—growing food, preparing food, and serving food—has tremendous labor needs, and any food business owner will tell you that finding good labor is one of their biggest challenges.

That’s why nonprofits and food businesses across the country are training and hiring returning citizens—with incredible results.

The Food Industry is training returning citizens for new careers

Restaurants have long been one of the  top avenues for employment available to citizens when they return from prison, but recently businesses and nonprofits have doubled down on creating career paths for former prisoners. Here are just a few of their stories:

Edwin’s Restaurant in Cleveland started training and employing formerly incarcerated individuals because of the restaurant’s founder’s own brush with the law. As of August 2016, they had trained 145 people and only one had returned to prison.

Dave’s Killer Bread began when Co-Founder Dave Dahl was welcomed back to his family’s bakery after serving 15 years in prison. The company now sells organic sandwich bread throughout North America and one in three of their employees has a background of incarceration. They recently launched the Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation to inspire and support new second chance employers.

Since 1982, Greyston Bakery has leveraged Open Hiring™ to create advancement pathways for disadvantaged citizens of Yonkers, New York, because “no one willing to work should be denied the dignity of a job.”

In California, Delancey Street Foundation has been working with people recovering from addiction and returning from prison since 1971. CALA restaurant in San Francisco started hiring former prisoners not just out of a sense of mission, but out of practicality. Owner Gabriela Camara and General Manager Emma Rosenbush began recruiting through inmate reentry institutions because they struggled to find qualified wait staff through traditional means.

These are just a few examples of the many businesses and nonprofit organizations working in the second chance food employment space across the country. California has the opportunity to super-charge this important work and serve as a national example for what’s possible.

California: Center of the movement

California’s huge food economy and justice reform policies make it the natural center of the second-chance career movement.

California is the United States’ largest food producer with the most developed agriculture industry in the country, generating at least 100 billion dollars in related economic activity and supporting a large value-added food industry. California’s restaurants are projected to net US$82.2 billion in 2017—far more than any other state. Yet the difficulty that California food businesses have finding qualified workers is legendary.

But right now, new opportunities are available to businesses that are open to second-chance employment. In 2009, an initiative of the State of California dubbed “Public Safety Realignment” began a trend reducing the state’s prison population. As of 2014, California still had 136,000 inmates—more than any other state except Texas. In the last two years, however, prisoners are returning home at much higher rates.

Over the last several years, thousands of prisoners have returned home at higher than projected rates because of two ballot initiatives. Proposition 47 passed in 2014, which resulted in 6,334 inmates released as of October 2015. And Proposition 57 passed in 2016, which is projected to make 25,000 more inmates eligible for release starting this year.

Organizations and businesses across the country have blazed the trail finding the best ways to create economic opportunities in the food industry for returning citizens, but in California, we have the opportunity to scale this work. That’s why we started FoodSchool.

What’s happening in Santa Clara County

FoodSchool has met with leaders of many great organizations to find the answer to this fundamental question:

Can we make our communities happier, healthier, safer, and more prosperous by connecting food industry employers with Americans who are looking for a second chance?

Santa Clara County is already home to several organizations offering valuable resources for returning citizens.

The Reentry Resource Center unites Santa Clara County reentry programs and support services under a single roof, breaking the cycle of incarceration by facilitating access.

The New Opportunity Work program at Goodwill of Silicon Valley supports successful transitions from prison to the workforce through part-time employment, case management, job search and application support, and Moral Reconation Therapy®training.

The Center For Employment Opportunities (CEO) has established itself as a leader in reentry, with supportive transitional employment programs in seven states, and is working to establish a new program office in San Jose.

A bit farther North, several organizations provide culinary, food service, and life skills training to help people successfully enter the workforce and advance themselves through food industry jobs.

Fresh Starts Culinary Academy is a 10-week training program at Homeward Bound of Marin, and is a model member of the Catalyst Kitchens network of nonprofits. The Berkeley-based Bread Project prepares people with limited resources for food service careers through a three-week Bakery Bootcamp, and Richmond’s Rubicon Bakeryemploys and supports people returning from prison or recovering from addiction and homelessness.

In Oakland, ROC the Bay works to improve wages and working conditions for Bay Area restaurant employees through support and education for high road restaurants and career advancement training for disadvantaged workers.

FoodSchool will join this ecosystem of organizations to provide valuable culinary training to returning citizens in San Jose and improve access to career opportunities for those ready for a second chance. Together, we can build a vibrant food culture that supports economic prosperity for all of California and respects the contributions of all our citizens.

The best part is, YOU can join the movement! Sign up for our workshop to talk directly to expert panelists, including Emma Rosenbush of CALA, Genevieve Martin of the Dave's Killer Bread Foundation, and Shelby Mason of the Goodwill NOW Program.

The Business Case for Hiring Formerly Incarcerated People

If you’ve got two applicants equally suited for a position, and one has a criminal record, which one would you pick? unpacks why your initial reaction might steer you wrong.

Check out the myth-busting article, and get excited to hear directly from Genevieve Martin, of the Dave's Killer Bread Foundation at Growing Inclusive Restaurants in San Jose on June 26th.

See you there!