Obviously, Amazon is affecting Seattle in big ways. Less obvious is the impact of FareStart, an organization that has quietly and consistently been influencing our city through social services and quality meals for the past 25 years with the help of longtime supporters—like Amazon.
The South Lake Union (SLU) megacorp is donating 25,000 square feet of premium neighborhood space (all on the same block, but in different buildings) to FareStart to house a new paid-apprenticeship program with public dining options, training and catering facilities. It’s set to open in July.
On the surface, this means SLU denizens gain five new FareStart-staffed restaurants (adding to the existing restaurant, café and catering services): Maslow’s by FareStart, a full-service American-style eatery with full bar, open for lunch and dinner; Rise by FareStart, a coffee shop; and three fast-casual concepts within the same location (barbecue, salads and fresh grain bowls—think rice, quinoa, couscous and plenty of vegetables) and bearing the same name, Community Table by FareStart.
But the real work is happening behind the scenes. FareStart’s current training program takes people dealing with homelessness, addiction recovery and/or previous incarceration and gives them the skills to gain entry-level employment in the food industry. The new program aims to provide additional training in management, bartending and cooking, so that these individuals can continue to advance into higher-paying roles. This is important for closing the city’s widening income gap, says Stephanie Schoo, marketing and communications director. “We want people to be able to work here and live here.”
The hope, too, is that additional trained cooks will be able to fill Seattle restaurants’ urgent need for line cooks, in particular, as well as sous chef and chef positions. According the Washington Hospitality Association, the demand for restaurant positions has outweighed the supply for the past couple of years. Currently, 90 percent of the adults who graduate from FareStart’s program are employed within three months.