Cooking up promise
In his second year as an AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America, or VISTA, Ryan Reeves ’08 is coordinator of the Harvest Kitchen youth and job training program for Farm Fresh Rhode Island. Working in collaboration with chefs, volunteers and returning graduates, Reeves trains youth who are under the care of the Rhode Island Department of Youth and Families in culinary, sales and life skills.
“My day-to-day is never the same, and that is why I love it,” remarks Ryan, who will become a full-time employee of Farm Fresh Rhode Island in August. “I spend time talking with farmers, ordering produce, buying kitchen equipment, writing recipes, coordinating our online and retail sales, managing farmers’ markets, keeping inventory, cooking and teaching. I interact directly with trainees in the hectic atmosphere that is created when you put 10 16-to-18-year-olds in a kitchen with 200 pounds of apples, boiling vats, a beat up clock radio and a bunch of knives.”
Employees and youth in the program produce a line of jarred goods, using produce sourced through a growing network of local farms in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. “My favorite part of the job is seeing the change as the trainees start to believe, contrary to almost everything anybody has ever told them, that they are needed, valuable and full of promise.”