Catching Up With FareStart
Response revisits a remarkable culinary program and the SPU alums connected to it
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In 2006, Response introduced readers to FareStart, the innovative Seattle nonprofit that teaches culinary skills to homeless people and others living on the edge. Seattle Pacific alumni Lillian Sherman Hochstein ’91 and Dan Escobar ’04 helped guide FareStart in very different ways — one as development director and one as a chef instructor. Response checked in with them recently.
Lillian Sherman Hochstein ’91
FareStart’s success had it bursting its seams within 10 years of its founding, and Hochstein was instrumental in its $8 million capital campaign to build a new facility. In 2007, in fact, the doors opened on a new, expanded facility at 700 Virginia Street in downtown Seattle.
With more wiggle room, the more than 3,000 people had used FareStart services by 2009. And 80 percent of the food-service graduates were employed within 90 days. “For the first time ever,” adds Karla Smith-Jones, FareStart’s marketing communications manager, “FareStart graduated more than 100 adults — 102 to be exact — during 2008, a 73 percent increase over the previous year.”
Yet once Hochstein had helped initiate FareStart’s capital campaign, she joined another organization in 2006. Becoming the vice president of development and communications of Seattle’s Family Services. “Working at FareStart, I learned what it’s like for the homeless,” she says. “At Family Services, I took it to a broader level with families.”
The mother of two young children, Hochstein has long had a passion to help families, and Family Services helps families facing homelessness, domestic violence, and joblessness. “But at 117 years old, Family Services was very much where FareStart was at 14,” she says, adding that the nonprofit had never held a capital campaign and its clients needed to visit multiple locations to access services, including a childcare center for homeless children aged 1 through 5.
After three years and a $12.5 million campaign — which included trips to Olympia to lobby the Washington Legislature — Hochstein is witnessing the grand opening of Family Services’ new facility on 1900 Rainier Avenue South. As of June 26, even more families could find help and support in one location. “We really want to get to the root cause of family homelessness,” says Hochstein. “We want to get to the root cause, and not perpetuate the cycle.”
Dan Escobar ’04
While a business major, Dan Escobar had done both a class project and an internship at FareStart. After graduating, he became a chef instructor — teaching in the part of the kitchen dedicated to contracted meals for childcare centers, shelters, and the like.
Then in 2007, Escobar became the program development manager for Kitchens With Mission, an organization taking the FareStart model nationwide. KWM, he explains, currently works with 32 partner organizations, guiding them as they establish food-service training programs, become more self-sustaining, and provide meals for those in need. “Kitchens With Mission lets me better use the degree I got from SPU,” he says. It also gives him a lot of frequent flyer miles.
Since joining KWM, Escobar regularly works with partner organizations in locales such as New Orleans, Oakland, and Pittsburgh. Programs from Chicago and Upstate New York have come to Seattle to visit him. Programs in Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, and Ireland are expressing interest.
The organizations are discovering that partnering with KWM pays off. One nonprofit was serving 200 meals a day to the homeless from, “the most disgusting kitchen I’ve ever been in my life,” says Escobar, adding that the program was also losing about $200,000 a year.
Once he began working with the organization, the kitchen staff was replaced, a new chef was hired, and stringent guidelines were implemented. “Now they are more than breaking even, and 12 people have completed their program,” he says. Another organization was turned down for a $100,000 grant, but after KWM was utilized, the program became profitable — and received a grant. In fact, funders such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have made grants contingent on a organization working with KWM.
Then on June 1, 2009, Kitchens With Mission rejoined FareStart. "This is a very symbiotic relationship," explains Escobar, adding that while KWM has access to national funding sources that FareStart doesn't, it doesn't have FareStart's 20-year history. "It is truly a win, win situation."
With this kind of success, FareStart and Kitchens With Mission have put a new spin on the Chinese proverb: “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” They teach whole at-risk communities.
By Hope McPherson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Photos courtesy of Lillian Hochstein and Dan Escobar