“Feed your appetite. Nourish your community.”
It’s the motto and driving philosophy of Providence in Winston-Salem, a family of programs of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina created and led by UNC Greensboro alumnus, Chef Jeff Bacon.
Since first partnering with Second Harvest in 2006, Bacon has dedicated himself to fighting job and food insecurity in the state by sharing his love of cooking through Providence Culinary Training Program. The program is a hands-on, 13-week training experience for individuals struggling to find employment. Whether they are looking for new skills after a job loss, looking to start over after serving time in prison, or recovering from addiction, Providence students are given a chance to start over with new workplace skills, professional certifications, and a newfound sense of purpose.
“That’s the greatest gift you can give another person,” Bacon said. “I can teach you how to make a sauce and give you the technical training, but teaching you to believe in yourself and teaching you that there’s something inside you worth knowing about and believing in is really the most important work. That’s what keeps people from giving up hope.”
Meals created by students of the program come primarily from food donated to Second Harvest, and are distributed to soup kitchens and meal sites across northwest North Carolina.
In 2018 alone, the Providence Culinary Training Program conferred 66 diplomas and provided 65,000 ready-to-heat meals to soup kitchens and meal sites. Since its inception, the Providence Culinary Training Program has produced more than 700 highly-trained chefs, most of which move on to full-time employment in restaurants. To date, 82 percent of alumni of the program continue to be employed at local restaurants three years after graduating.
In addition to the training program, Bacon and Second Harvest have also opened the Providence Restaurant and Catering at DoubleTree by Hilton on University Parkway in Winston-Salem and Providence Kitchen at BB&T in downtown Winston-Salem. All proceeds at both restaurants go to fund Providence Culinary Training.
The restaurants afford graduates of the training program an opportunity to gain up to two years of on-the-job experience through Providence residency programs. They also employ more than 50 program alumni full-time.
Bacon’s efforts won him the 2018 Public Service Award from UNCG’s Department of Health and Human Sciences.
Photography by Liz Nemeth Photography, provided courtesy of Providence Restaurant.