Not long ago, Morgan Menear was living out of her car in Kitsap County. When she went through a 16-week culinary job training program at FareStart, she learned not only how to work in a kitchen, but much more — her experience with FareStart offered the kind of support services that helped her to get a new start on life.

FareStart is a nonprofit that supports individuals who are experiencing homelessness, are in recovery, or were incarcerated, through job training and employment in the food service industry. FareStart believes in the importance of providing wraparound support services such as housing, mental health counseling, substance abuse support groups, transportation, clothing and other basic needs.

“We take a holistic approach, because everything is connected,” says Michelle McDaniel, FareStart’s chief mission and social enterprise officer. “If a student is hungry or doesn’t know where they’re sleeping that night, they can’t learn or focus on getting a job.”

For adults and youth struggling to move beyond these setbacks, getting back on their feet can seem like an insurmountable challenge. These individuals not only struggle with tangible needs like access to shelter, jobs, clothing, transportation and food, they also have to contend with public perception. Building confidence through comprehensive support from the community can make all of the difference in disrupting the poverty cycle, creating long-term solutions that stick. This is all part of FareStart’s approach.

“It can be challenging to break out of the cycle of homelessness and poverty,” says McDaniel. “Oftentimes, people face compounding barriers to getting and keeping a job. FareStart helps people overcome those barriers by teaching them both job skills and life skills. Learning how to consistently show up to work on time, positively work as a team member and effectively communicate are just as important as learning knife skills.”

Currently, the need for FareStart’s services has never been greater. Last year, FareStart enrolled more than 500 people into all of its local programs — the highest in their nearly 30-year history.

In FareStart’s Adult Culinary Program alone, more than 80 percent of students who come to the program are experiencing homelessness or housing instability. Six months after graduation, only 3% are still experiencing homelessness.

“We can’t do the work we do without the support of the entire community and partners like Amazon,” says McDaniel. “Over the years, Amazon has generously provided support for FareStart’s programs and services.”

“Amazon and FareStart truly embrace each other as neighbors,” says Krystal Brun, a senior program manager for the Amazon in the Community team. “Our partnership is built on this idea that if we work together — with programs, dining space, community gardens, volunteer engagement — with our shared community in mind, we will all thrive, together.”

“Their support has helped hundreds of students transform their lives creating a positive ripple effect across our community,” says McDaniel.

More than 90% of Adult Culinary Program graduates get a job. Since graduating from the program, Menear now supports herself. FareStart provided her housing at a local women’s transitional shelter while she was in the program. Now that she has graduated, she pays for her own housing and works at Essential Bakery.

FareStart helped me grow into someone completely different. It helped me find myself from a person who felt so lost,” says Menear. “It made me want to make changes in my life and believe in myself again. It made me want to be better for not only myself, but for the others in my life as well.”

Amazon is proud to provide unique support to FareStart, whose culinary training programs empower people who are homeless or living in poverty to find higher paying career opportunities within the food service industry. Learn how to donate, volunteer and dine.