From the road it looks like a big, industrial building. But inside 276 East Allen Street, a new wave of young chefs are being trained, and they more than just a love for food in common.
Mikayla Taylor, Darryl Grimes and several other young chefs are all legally blind or visually impaired. They are part of the “Leap” summer program through ReSOURCE in Burlington, which teaches independence to youth just like them.
“It’s kind of one of those things where you grew up knowing you’re blind so it doesn’t really affect you that much,” Taylor said.
LEAP stands for learn, earn, and prosper. The young adults come and live in a dorm at the University of Vermont for a few weeks. They get to take the bus and job shadow a few days a week. Julia Scheier, the Operations Director of Salvation Farms, says it’s often their first time living away from home.
This summer for the first time, ReSOURCE has partnered with the non-profit Salvation Farms to give these curious minds the guidance they need, to put their cooking skills to the test.
“They’re helping us to process, to cut and freeze hundreds of pounds of food that’s going into food shelves in our communities,” Scheier said.
Salvation Farms has been around since 2005, collecting and gleaning thousands of pounds of food that would otherwise be lost on Vermont farms. Through a study conducted last year salvations farms found 14 million pounds of edible food is lost each year on Vermont farms throughout the entire state.
“We turn around and donate it to food shelves and meal sights, Meals on Wheels, a lot of our food goes through the Vermont food bank,” Scheier said.
The program has taught the local youth something truly irreplaceable.
“Do whatever you want to do, don’t let things hold you back,” Taylor said.
“A lot of blind and visually impaired youth don’t often push themselves in the kitchen because working with knives or a stove is scary. To learn how to be in the kitchen with enough supervisors, even specialists have come in to help hone knife skills is critical for them to cook on their own and lead healthy lives” Scheier said.
For more information on how you can help give back and get involved with Salvation Farms click here.