Finding steady employment is just one of the many barriers to reentry that returning citizens face upon their release. That's why CoreCivic is committed to providing those in our care with opportunities to further their education and learn vocational skills for in-demand trades that will put them in the best possible position to succeed outside of prison.
In July, CoreCivic's Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Conneaut, Ohio, launched an innovative culinary career training program for inmates. Upon completion, program participants can earn the Certified Fundamentals Cook (CFC)® certificate, an industry- and nationally-recognized certification from the American Culinary Federation.
Lake Erie is the first CoreCivic facility to pilot this 10-month long program, in which nine inmates are enrolled as of July 2021. The program has been made possible through a collaboration between CoreCivic, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC), and Trinity Services Group.
"We are really excited to partner with Trinity and ODRC to help these men earn the highly esteemed CFC certification from the American Culinary Federation," said Lake Erie Warden Doug Fender. "What is neat about this culinary program is that upon completion, students will be one step closer to an executive chef certification. And that's a really big deal!"
To celebrate the launch of the program, a special event was held at Lake Erie. The event began with an hour of meet and greet while the culinary program participants prepared and served hors d'oeuvres to special guests from ODRC, CoreCivic, Trinity Services Group, and the local community.
The hors d'oeuvres menu consisted of spicy feta spread with pita chips, bleu cheese stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto ham, berry yogurt parfaits, chicken salad on endive, deviled eggs topped with pickled radish, caprese, polenta with honey walnuts and chèvre cheese, and buckwheat blinis with smoked salmon.
"I always wanted to open up a restaurant – you know if we don't eat, we won't be here," said Shawn Cunigan, a participant in the program. "Food makes people happy because everyone's happy when they taste good food."
Cunigan added that he is most excited to show off his new cooking skills to his family once released.
"It is our responsibility to help equip these men to be the best they can be following release, and this program supports that effort," Fender said.
With an eye on Lake Erie's program success, CoreCivic will be exploring additional opportunities to implement the culinary program at more of its facilities nationwide.