VoCul

Culinary instruction for a meaningful career.

At The Good Acre, we take a holistic approach to solving critical gaps in the regional food system. When we first started selling local produce to area K-12 schools, we realized that logistics were only part of the problem.

To build successful and sustainable farm to school programs, we need to address a key barrier schools face in implementing scratch cooking in their kitchens—staffing shortages. By addressing the shortage of trained school chefs, we can grow a school’s capacity to make and serve nutritious scratch-made meals—a win for kids, a win for schools, and a win for the local food system.

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School Chef

Program Goals

Chef
Encourage more people to pursue culinary food service careers in schools
food tray
Increase the number of healthy food options served and consumed in schools
produce basket
Enable schools to source more local produce for scratch cooking in their kitchens

How does the program work?

Our first VoCul training cohort began in October of 2020. Participants go through 10-weeks of a combination of hands-on and online training, followed by an internship at a partnering K-12 school kitchen. Participants:

  • Are receive a weekly stipend to offset living expenses
  • Participate in a combination of hands-on and online training, approximately 28 hours per week
  • Fulfill a 4-week internship commitment with one of our partner school districts
  • Receive support in obtaining a culinary service job at the end of the program

Vocational Training F.A.Q.

What is VoCul?

VoCul, our Vocational Culinary Training program, aims to increase area schools’ capacity for serving healthy, locally-sourced, scratch-cooked meals by training individuals seeking careers and employment in the K-12 school culinary setting. This 14-week vocational training program supports the workforce, school foodservice operations, and our regional farm economy.

Under the guidance of Chef Lachelle Cunningham, trainees learn about food safety (ServSafe certification included), school nutrition guidelines, large-batch scratch cooking, how to use industrial equipment, and more. The first ten weeks of the program consist of a mix of online and in-person training at The Good Acre’s commercial kitchen. A four-week internship follows at one of The Good Acre’s partner schools. 

Who is involved in VoCul?

VoCul is a pilot program of The Good Acre, in partnership with Casa de Esperanza and Cornerstone Advocacy Service. If you are affiliated with a community organization interested in being a VoCul program partner in the future, please APPLY HERE.

During the internship phase of this pilot program, participants are invited to intern at a partner school: Minneapolis Public Schools Culinary & Wellness or Roseville Area Schools Nutrition Services. APPLY HERE to be a host site for interns in the future.

When does this training take place?

Applications for Cohort 1 are now closed. Check back here in January for an announcement when our next round of applications open. Our first cohort started training in mid-October of 2020 and will graduate in January 2021.

Time Commitment: 28 hours per week for all 14 weeks of program

  • Training Phase (10 weeks):
    • Online Zoom Lecture: 2-4 hours per week
    • In-Person Cooking Lab: 1 day (6-8 hours) per week
    • Flexible Remote Work (reading, activities, tasks and assessments): 16-20 hours per week
  • Internship Phase (4 weeks):
    • Up to 28 hours per week of on the job training in a school kitchen
  • Graduation – Takes place during final week of internship
Where does VoCul take place?

For the well being and accommodation of all program faculty and participants, the VoCul program has been designed to be flexible to different schedules and personal circumstances, while reducing in-person contact and adhering to social distancing guidelines. Training is delivered in a combination of formats:

  • Weekly online lectures through Zoom Meetings. Participants do not need to have a Zoom account to log in.
  • Weekly in-person cooking labs at The Good Acre kitchen.
  • Web-based components can be completed remotely with high-speed internet connection through the online class portal. 
  • Internships take place at various school locations in Minneapolis and Roseville. Each intern completes their four-week internship at one site.
Will I be paid to participate?

Yes!

Participants are paid a weekly stipend of $420 per week with good attendance.

All kitchen equipment and recipe ingredients needed for in-person labs are provided by The Good Acre. This includes knives, smallwares, and larger equipment and appliances. TGA also provides textbooks for ServSafe certification, a chef’s coat for each graduate, and aprons to use while in the kitchen.

VoCul has extra transportation and/or child care funds available for participants to attend online and in-person training sessions. These additional funds are available by request. Students should contact the instructor directly to learn more about the request and approval process.

What are the eligibility requirements?

Applicants must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Have valid identification, as required by the I-9 form
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalency

Note: while our intention is to remove as many barriers as possible to training and employment opportunities, it is possible that some results of background investigations could deem an applicant ineligible for employment in school kitchens.

Is job placement guaranteed after graduation?

No.

Participants will graduate with the skills necessary to start a career in school foodservice, preparing nutrient-dense meals that taste good and get students excited to eat healthier. Our goal is to educate, empower, and equip participants with culinary and job readiness skills. We collaborate with our school district partners to create pathways to employment when possible. However, job placement depends on school needs at the time of graduation, and VoCul graduates must go through the district’s application process. We will gladly provide a professional reference by request.

Meet Your Instructor

Lachelle Cunningham

CULINARY EDUCATION MANAGER

Lachelle is passionate about empowering people with the skills needed to create healthy and soulful food. She believes exposing kids to new foods is critical for helping them learn to make healthy choices that will last a lifetime.

For Participants

Applications for cohort 1 are now closed. If you are interested in being a participant in the future, please give us your contact info by clicking the button below, and we will contact you when applications are open again in early 2021.

Si está interesado en participar en el futuro, cliquee el botón para proveer su información. Le contactarémos cuando aplicaciones están disponibles, al principio de 2021.

For Partners

If you are a K-12 school interested in hiring skilled culinary workers or a community organization representing clients in need of employment, apply to be a partner.

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VoCul is made possible with funding from the Cargill Foundation.

Contact Us

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