Cincinnati COOKS! from the Freestore Foodbank Non-profit of the Month

One in six of our neighbors in the tristate area are at risk of hunger. In response, the Freestore Foodbank partners with 400 partner agencies to provide emergency food assistance to our neighbors in need.

Many people do not know that in addition to providing food, we also wo­rk to help individuals and families attain self-sufficiency and stability in their lives.  So, in addition to feeding the line, we also work to shorten the line.  One of the ways in which we help is to provide job training in fields where there is a high demand for skilled workers. As Cincinnati’s food scene grows, restaurants need trained employees who are ready to work.

Cincinnati COOKS! is a free culinary job training program for under- and unemployed individuals. During the 10-week course, students learn the mechanics of a commercial kitchen, as well as professional and life skills to ensure success in the food service industry and in their personal lives. Course topics include: food safety, food inventory and storage, basic nutrition and knife skills. In addition to our staff, COOKS! students benefit from the experience of learning and working with volunteer chefs and professionals.

Since the program began in 2001, over 1,500 people have graduated. Those students have gone on to find employment at more than 200 local culinary institutions including restaurants, school cafeterias, retirement communities, corporate dining halls, and catering companies.

Meet Marilyn, one of our graduates:

Following graduation from Cincinnati COOKS!, students are eligible to enroll in our Second Course program. The eight-week course provides advanced skills training for management opportunities and employment in fine dining restaurants. Graduates from Cincinnati COOKS! and Second Course can continue their education at Cincinnati State, entering with 30 academic credit hours toward an Associate Degree in Culinary Management.

Cincinnati COOKS! not only provides the community with skilled chefs, but also helps to create stability and self-reliance in the lives of our neighbors. For more information about the Freestore Foodbank and to find out how you can get more involved, visit

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