Disability Pride Month: New programs focus on abilities
July 27, 2023
Did you know that July is Disability Pride Month? The month is celebrated to honor the history, achievements, and challenges of the disability community. This month also recognizes the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation that broke down barriers to inclusion in society; it became law on July 26, 1990.
Here at the Food Bank of Delaware, we are committed to cultivating a workforce that fosters accessibility and inclusivity for all.
According to the USDA, in 2020 adults with disabilities experienced food insecurity at more than twice the rate of adults who were not disabled. The employment rate of people with disabilities is also much lower than that of those without disabilities. This rate exists despite many people with disabilities having the ability and desire to gain employment. Many people with disabilities leave school without community-based vocational training that would prepare them for integrated competitive employment.
It’s why we have developed training opportunities for people with disabilities through programs like The Kitchen School, a new S.T.E.P. – Specialized Training Employment Program, and a summer culinary exploration program for high school students.
“We at the Food Bank want to uphold our values of inclusivity and diversity by helping individuals become employed,” said Specialized Training Program Director Tee Sanders.
She explains that culinary training is much more than an employment opportunity – though for many people that’s a drawing card. “Culinary is a transferrable life skill. It offers some degree of independence, for employment and at home,” she said.
She also notes that students gain other every-day life skills. “They become accountable, show up on time, clock in. They can also share these resources with their family,” Sanders noted.
Eight students successfully completed the 12-week Kitchen School training program on July 13 in Milford. Their accomplishments were celebrated with a graduation ceremony. “This is a day to celebrate disability pride awareness, to celebrate what they – the new Kitchen School graduates – can do! They’ve learned so much and we learned so much from each one of them. They should be proud of themselves because we definitely are proud of them,” Sanders said.
Tee and S.T.E.P Manager Aesha Harper say recruitment for students “never stops,” and “word of mouth, success stories” are the key to attracting new students. Students who complete the programs are on that road to achievement; the training program includes transitioning into employment, plus follow-up staff support for a year.
Sanders and Harper look forward to growing The Kitchen School, while implementing the new S.T.E.P. initiative. This program fosters diversity and inclusiveness by empowering and employing people with disabilities within our own organization. Some Kitchen School graduates are already employed at our Newark site.
S.T.E.P. associates will engage in structured activities that align with their job functions and activities. S.T.E.P. Leads will assist participants with learning job tasks and workforce behaviors. Areas of the organization where associates will work include the Discover Cafe, Healthy Pantry Center, Food Bank Farm, administrative, and warehouse/facilities.
One of our strategic goals is to transform lives by focusing on economic empowerment through workforce development. We can make a meaningful impact on the lives of adults with disabilities through our programming!