When youth come to Covenant House, feeding them is one of the first things we do. When a young person isn’t worried about their next meal, they can begin to think more about their future. Offering nourishment right away can help to build trust so we can continue to offer support.

Food is fundamental to our services in more ways than just one. On average, we distribute over 2,500 meals per week and some of them are produced through our Cooking for Life program. Through this culinary arts training program, food becomes more than a form of wellness. It is also a way to build valuable life and work skills.

Led by our Chef Instructor, Cooking for Life prepares young people for entry-level employment in the food services industry. It teaches them professional conduct while giving them hands-on kitchen experience. Working with our rooftop garden, participants also learn about planting and harvesting their own herbs and produce to prepare garden to table meals.

The program teaches a range of practical and modern culinary skills. The techniques covered include the fundamentals of cooking, knife skills, safety, food handling, as well as culturally diverse and seasonal menu planning.

“Participants also learn “soft skills” like healthy boundaries, positive group dynamics, conflict resolution and communicating effectively in a team setting,” said Culinary Support Worker Natacha Pinero. “By participating in these workshops, participants will learn important skills that are required in the workplace and in a team environment.”

“Youth prepare savoury and sweet dishes that employ a range of diverse culinary and baking techniques,” said Chef Instructor Sonya Gammal.

Beyond kitchen skills, the program supports wellness by connecting young people to services ranging from mental health to physiotherapy. Our Culinary Support Worker Natacha helps young people learn that self care is critical to creating positive habits for long-term success.

85% of youth in our Cooking for Life program have secured employment. Even those who don’t choose this career path walk away with lessons that can last a lifetime.

Learn more about our solutions and how you can help young people experiencing homelessness or trafficking access nourishing meals, shelter and support.