Culinary School student embarks on new career after job loss

January 19, 2021

Seaford resident Endora Jefferson personifies the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Until mid-October, this mother and grandmother had been employed full-time by a Georgetown industry; she lost her job last fall in a final round of downsizing.

“It was devastating,” she said. Although she has been a student at the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School in Milford since Nov. 23, she’s still unemployed and has yet to receive any state unemployment benefits.

While trying to figure out what she would do next, she noticed Facebook posts about the Food Bank’s Culinary School, a 14-week workforce development program. Then one of her friends, a Culinary School grad, suggested the program as possibility. “It piqued my curiosity,” said Endora. “I love food and I love cooking. I’ve been cooking since I was old enough to stand up to the stove. I had five siblings, and I learned from my mom, my grandma, and my auntie. I want to learn more, the fundamentals of an industrial kitchen.”

In addition, she struggles financially without the unemployment benefits, and she’s been calling weekly to check on her filing status. “It’s been rough. I’ve used up my severance, so I have no income. My daughters help, but they have families. I call in, and I email to see what the hold-up is. I’m on very thin ice,” Endora said.

She is juggling just a few bills – rent, car payment, and car insurance. “I let my landlord know, but the COVID relief has dried up. I’ve sent in verification for school. It’s a struggle. I’ve almost thought about going back to the chicken plant, but then I’d lose this. I’m just trying to turn the negative into a positive.”

Meanwhile, she’s looking forward to her two-week paid internship through the Culinary School and to graduation in March. She aspires to work in a “nice restaurant and maybe own a catering business.”

The next 14-week Culinary School program starts March 22. Student tuition and supplies are paid through generous grants. In addition, transportation is provided to and from class. Visit www.fbd.org for more information or contact Lisa Grinnage by email at lgrinnage@fbd.org or call 302-444-8076.

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