Current inmates of the San Mateo County jail, who are enrolled at JobTrain in a training furlough program, are baking cookies for their fellow inmates for the 12th year in a row thanks to the Culinary Arts program at JobTrain.
Students from JobTrain, a nonprofit organization that provides job training and placement services, are continuing their holiday tradition of baking thousands of cookies for inmates in San Mateo County. And, of the students baking this year, half of them are currently incarcerated and on training furlough at JobTrain. They are baking while at JobTrain, and on Christmas Day, they will get to enjoy the fruits of their labor with their fellow inmates at the County jail who often don’t have any other gifts at Christmas.
Every year since 2006, JobTrain Culinary Arts students bake thousands of cookies, which are then distributed by members of the San Mateo County Service League to people in San Mateo County jails. This year the Service League will pick up more than 8,000 cookies on December 21st and deliver them to the inmates on Christmas day.
JobTrain Culinary Arts student and work furlough participant Michael R. had shared, “We are only allowed to send cards in the jail; it is nice to be able to give actual gifts to people.” Culinary Arts graduate and work furlough participant Dafne L. enjoys baking and giving to others: “Lots of people are forgotten while incarcerated – the inmates will appreciate those who took the time to bake for them.” Culinary Arts students bake the more than 8,000 cookies at an average of well over 1,000 per day! And, this is an extracurricular assignment. Each student still has to complete the program’s curriculum for each day.
The JobTrain Cookie Project is an excellent learning experience and exercise in giving back to the community. “You can make people’s lives better with your cooking, and you can help people no matter where you are in life,” says JobTrain Chef-Instructor Adam Weiner. JobTrain’s Culinary Arts program, taught by six time national award-winning Chef-Instructor Weiner, is one of five full-time vocational training programs that JobTrain provides to people at no cost throughout the Bay Area. The success of JobTrain’s programs is reflected in the percentage of graduates who obtain employment: last year 77% of graduates of JobTrain programs obtained high-quality jobs, and one year after placement, 81% were still working. For people who have been formerly incarcerated and have completed a JobTrain training furlough program, the recidivism rate is only 31%, dramatically lower than the San Mateo County average of approximately 60%.