Emerging Leader Helps Innovative Cooking Program Change Incarcerated Individuals' Lives - We Raise Foundation

Emerging Leader Helps Innovative Cooking Program Change Incarcerated Individuals’ Lives

Chefs at counter

Unless something crucial changes for them, incarcerated individuals released from prison often relapse. Chopping for Change (C4C) provides exactly that crucial change. This innovative program takes individuals out of prison and into civilian custody for employment training in culinary arts, giving them solid skills so that when they’re released into the community, they can hit the ground running…and cooking.

Chopping for Change is a partnership between Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM) in Cleveland, Ohio, The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, and the Cuyahoga County Office of Reentry.

Elizabeth Stiles

Elizabeth Stiles, Academic Program Manager for LMM, received an Emerging Leader Grant from We Raise for her work with LMM’s Chopping for Change program. She oversees the program and teaches several classes, including Food Justice, Food Systems, and ServSafe, which offers food safety certification.

In addition to culinary arts training, C4C provides counseling and support services for participants. The program, which began for women in 2015, has proven so successful that it’s now been expanded to include a male population from the Grafton Correctional Facility. Depending on the amount of time students train, they can earn a Culinary Training Program certificate, a Hospitality Training Program diploma, and an Associate Degree in Culinary Arts and Hospitality.

To date, over 250 students have participated in the program, and 97% have stayed out of the criminal justice system post-release.

Stiles, who started at LMM in 2013, recently received a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Cleveland State University. She takes a humble approach to leadership and works to establish herself as a safe person to talk to.

“Everyone comes to the table with preexisting experiences and traumas, so a respect for that fact is key to effectively gaining trust,” she said.

One C4C incarcerated student from Grafton who has benefited from that trust is Andy. At his graduation in January, his family was able to watch him receive his certificate for completing LMM’s therapeutic course and also receive his brand new chef’s coat to wear in class.

Graduate of program

“It’s a blessing that I’m here, able to take advantage of this opportunity for my future,” said Andy. “My five-year goal is to be able to give my kids a house, a car, and a nice vacation together. Working and spending time with my kids, that’s my dream life right there.”

Stiles would like to thank We Raise donors for creating a more just, equitable, and joyful world. “The grant will enable me to gain leadership skills that will further improve the program for our students,” she said.

With the support of generous donors like you, many incarcerated individuals can look forward to a bright future and contribute positively and creatively to their communities.

We work hand in hand with Christian non-profits to end poverty, violence and inequality in our communities. Take action today and raise up those in need.