Chefs With A Recipe For Doing Good

Having access to and the ability to afford nutritious food options for every meal is something not to be taken for granted. Especially considering the fact that according to Feeding America, more than 13 million children are faced with food insecurity. That term is more serious than it sounds — identifying those households as not having the necessary food for every family member to lead a healthy life. Chefs Feeding Kids was created with the hope of offering a solution to this problem. It is a nonprofit organization on a mission to provide nutritious meals, foster healthy eating habits,and teach marketable culinary skills to those who need it most.

This nonprofit organization was inspired by the collaboration between Chef Glenn Cybulski and Chef Billy Manzo. The two initially met and competed at the Citta Di Napoli Pizza Competition in Naples, Italy during 2007 and 2008. Upon returning to the United States, they joined forces to form Chefs Feeding Kids in 2009. Shortly after, they began plans to open Chefs Feeding Kids Culinary Center, a brick and mortar facility used to train kids and adults in need for future culinary career opportunities. Chef Cybulski took on a lead role in the initiative and became the Executive Director.

“Billy and I became fast friends and found we had a lot in common regarding how we were raised,” said Chef Cybulski. “And while I never remember going without food, we did have a lot of pancake nights as my single mother did her best to care for me and my three siblings. These types of childhood experiences led to Billy and I having conversations about how we could help turn hungry bellies into happy ones.”

After Chefs Feeding Kids was granted a 501c3 status in 2011, Chef Manzo resigned from his co-founder position. It was not an easy decision, but it allowed him to focus on his pizza brand while maintaining his role as an unwavering supporter of the nonprofit organization and the positive impact it continues to make. The current Board of Directors includes Chef Glenn Cybulski (Executive Director, chef, and restaurateur), Pete Lachapelle (Former Trade Show Executive, Int’l Pizza Expo), and Matt Catherincchia (VP of Sales, Bellissimo Foods). With impressive amounts of experience and passion, each of these individuals bring crucial ingredients to the table regarding the overall success of Chefs Feeding Kids.

“We understand the needs and challenges we’re trying to alleviate,” said Lachapelle. “Seeing as the Chefs Feeding Kids is fairly new, it’s been both eye opening and inspiring to see such a strong initial response of support within the industry to ensure our vision comes to fruition.”

Among the challenges waiting to be resolved is the growing number of children faced with food insecurity, which has reached 1 in 5 here in America. There has been a movement within the foodservice industry to alleviate this problem through efforts such as Slice Out Hunger and Pizza Across America. And although the intentions are admirable, they are limited to just several days per year, leaving much more work to be done. Chefs Feeding Kids is focused on getting hundreds (if not thousands) of chefs nationwide to donate meals for kids and their families once a month. Along with providing food, there is an emphasis on promoting the benefits of eating healthy through friendly advice and simply, inexpensive recipes. There will also be free culinary training courses offered at various locations.

This is an important component of the nonprofit considering the foodservice industry is in desperate need of employees. Ever since COVID-19 struck and forced restaurants to close, employees who lost their jobs found work elsewhere, leaving a severe staffing issue for restaurateurs. And it is just one aspect of the multi-faceted approach — feed, educate, train, employ — that makes Chefs Feeding Kids so powerful.

Feed: Chefs Feeding Kids currently has a network of 58 National Chef Ambassadors who have agreed to deliver monthly meals to food insecure children and their families through local charities and youth organizations that share in the same mission. Within months, Chefs Feeding Kids is aiming to have hundreds more Chef Ambassadors join in the effort to help put an end to hunger.

Educate: Chefs Feeding Kids realizes that sharing tips on healthy eating habits alongside meal distribution is crucial to promoting long-term wellbeing. The organization’s dedicated team of Chef Ambassadors will provide easy-to-follow recipes on the website as a way of empowering people with the knowledge and skills necessary for preparing nutritious meals at home. The goal is to expand the nonprofit’s outreach to other countries outside of the United States.

Train: Offering culinary training is a great way to increase access to career opportunities in the foodservice industry. Chefs Feeding Kids works with professional kitchens around the country that allow Chef Ambassadors to teach courses for youth between the ages of 12 and 18 throughout the year. These classes will focus on basic skills needed to work in a restaurant setting.

Employ: Upon completion of the Chefs Feeding Kids culinary course, the children will receive a certificate they can take with them when applying for a job in the foodservice industry. This aspect of the nonprofit has the potential to benefit both the individuals dealing with food insecurity and the culinary industry itself. Helping to develop a well-trained, enthusiastic workforce is a win-win scenario. Eventually, the Chefs Feeding Kids website will incorporate a job board to help match restaurateurs looking to hire with qualified employees searching for work.

By feeding, educating, training and employing individuals, Chefs Feeding Kids is not only addressing immediate hunger, but also creating a pathway to independence and employment in the foodservice industry. As it turns out, filling hungry bellies is extremely fulfilling!

“I have been feeding and educating kids since 2011 and seeing the smile on their faces when trying fresh pasta with sauce for the first time never loses its magic,” said Chef Cybulski. “I have countless stories with a lot of emotion around the gift of helping kids. It is truly a mission of gratitude and compassion.”

The legal process of creating Chefs Feeding Kids took 1.5 years to complete. It was a worthwhile labor of love that led to an “official” launch date of March 1, 2024. Remote classes began in Huntsville Alabama at Joe Carlucci’s Restaurant this month, followed by a class in Washington State at Sourdough Willy’s Restaurant with many more to come. Chef Feeding Kids also attended the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas March 19-21, 2024 where they spread the word about the importance of their mission. The nonprofit has already onboarded 58 talented chefs across the United States and overseas. And this is just the start.

“There are approximately 749,404 restaurants in the United States. If each chef held one small event a month in their town to provide a meal and teach healthy eating habits to an average of 10 kids, that would equate to 7,494,040 kids fed each month,” said Chef Cybulski. “That’s our vision and goal. One chef at a time, we will make a difference in cities and towns nationwide where the food insecurity problem is in need of a solution like Chefs Feeding Kids.”

As one can see, Chef Ambassadors are critical to the success of the program. By sharing meals once a month through charities and local youth programs, they take on the role of ground-level spokespeople and build the reputation of Chefs Feeding Kids. In time, many of them will become instructors of the simple culinary courses designed to help kids secure entry-level employment in restaurants. They say it takes a village — and they were right.

Interested in getting involved?

Join the fight against food insecurity and support Chefs Feeding Kids. Any donation (monetary or time) is greatly appreciated. The nonprofit is extremely focused on adding to its team of amazing Chef Ambassadors. If you’re a culinary professional who is looking for a rewarding way to make a positive difference, please take a moment to apply.

About Chefs Feeding Kids

We combat childhood food insecurity by providing nutritious meals and fostering healthy eating habits. Through collaborative efforts with communities, chefs, and partners, we aim to empower food-insecure children and young adults, including those within the autism community, by offering access to nutritious, affordable meals and equipping them with culinary skills. Our goal is to not only alleviate hunger but also pave the way for a brighter future by creating career pathways and opportunities, ensuring these individuals have the foundation for sustained wellbeing and success.

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