The Los Angeles LGBT Center has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the S. Mark Taper Foundation to support the Center’s innovative Culinary Arts program, an intergenerational training program for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness and low-income LGBTQ seniors. Taught at the Center’s commercial kitchen in the Anita May Rosenstein Campus, the 300-hour program engages students from the Center’s Senior Services programs to learn basic culinary skills alongside youth ages 18–24 in addition to professional development training for jobs beyond the kitchen. Participants finish the program by completing a 100-hour internship at local restaurants, catering companies, and other food service businesses.
“When we launched our Culinary Arts program, no one could have predicted that, one year later, we would be facing all of the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The demand for the Center’s services has increased as a result of the pandemic, including a heartbreaking rise in food insecurity in our community. Our Culinary Arts program has been instrumental in helping us to rise to meet this need, both by providing meals for our seniors and youth and by helping establish our Pride Pantry food bank that now distributes food from our locations throughout Los Angeles,” said Center CEO Lorri L. Jean. “Thanks, in part, to the S. Mark Taper Foundation’s generosity, the Culinary Arts program can continue to help sustain both the youth and seniors who work as part of the program and those who rely on its meals.”
Since the onset of the global health crisis, culinary students have prepared as many as 450 meals per day to feed the Center’s senior clients experiencing food insecurity, the 100+ homeless youth who visit the Youth Center, and senior and youth residents at multiple Center locations.
The Culinary Arts program is the brainchild of the Center’s Board of Directors Co-Chair and celebrity chef Susan Feniger. It is taught by Executive Chef Janet Crandall, Executive Sous Chef Dustin Chen, and Sous Chef Arlita Miller, with Nick Panepinto serving as the program’s Director of Culinary Training and Operations. Since the program’s launch in 2019, 42 students have graduated from the Culinary Arts program with 67 percent of them attaining employment (prior to the pandemic).
According to Adrienne Wittenberg, Executive Director of the S. Mark Taper Foundation, “The S. Mark Taper Foundation is proud to be connected with the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s employment program working to advance the economic stability of LGBTQ older adults and young people struggling to exit homelessness.”
For more information about the Los Angeles LGBT Center, visit lalgbtcenter.org.
For more information about the Center’s Culinary Arts program, visit lalgbtcenter.org/culinaryarts.