Rosemarie cherished summers at her grandparents’ farm where she was surrounded by fresh food produce like field peas, okra, cucumbers, watermelon and collard greens. Her grandmother taught her to cook and make preserves using pears, figs and other fruits. “What we couldn’t use we always saved for the community so that nothing went to waste,” she recalled.
But during the school year, she lived with her mother. The oldest of four children, she took on the role of “Little Mom.” When her mom was away at work, she left cereal for the kids to eat. Rosemarie grew tired of the same meal over and over again. One day she stood up, grabbed a stool and started cooking. She never stopped.
Rosemarie grew up. She got married, had children, and worked a variety of jobs from customer service to real estate. Through it all she kept on cooking, sharing the love of home cooked food with her family and her church. After a divorce, losing her home and becoming her daughter’s caregiver, it was time for Rosemarie to start over for herself. She turned to the one passion she’s always had, cooking.
“When I first walked into Second Harvest, I felt like a kid in a candy store,” Rosemarie said. “I felt excited and nervous but I knew this was the exposure and experience I was looking for.”
She enrolled in Second Harvest Food Bank’s 16-week Culinary Training Program, a career development program for economically disadvantaged adults who want to work in the food-service industry. Along with her classmates, Rosemarie learned the essential skills needed to work in a commercial kitchen. Lessons included food safety, sanitation, knife cuts and following recipes for a variety of cuisines. Rosemarie valued the life skills lessons just as much as the culinary classes, especially on communication, time management, and working together as a team.
“What I love about the program is that there is room for error, which allows room for personal growth,” said Rosemarie. “I’ve realized that I can do this and a new career is within my grasp.”
Rosemarie has tremendous hope for her and her daughter’s future. Hope to own her own home again. Hope to have a career she loves. Hope for herself and her daughter’s complete healing.
“Second Harvest is changing lives, and I’m one of them,” she said.