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UEMPOWER of Maryland's "The Food Project" brings culinary skills, job opportunities, sustainable food sources, mentorship & hope to the youth of South West Baltimore. With your support we can empower futures together.




Transition Kitchen  

Transition Kitchen provides fundamental cooking and general hospitality/food service skills in its 4 week program that can lead to immediate employment either with Transition Kitchen directly or via staffing agencies and other industry partners. Open to individuals age 14+, focusing on at-risk youth, ex-offenders, homeless and similar populations. Specialty classes will be offered on an as-interested basis. Opportunities for continuing education with area Culinary Programs. Afterschool culinary training would be available 4x a year and can be increased as interest and resources are available.


  • Chef Stew, Food Network Celebrity Chef, Founder of Transition Kitchen

Instructors Include:

  • Gail McGee, Bakery & Pastry Chef  
  • Kea Braxton, Sous Chef  
  • Becky Grinage, Lead Trainer/Job Placement
  • Paula Smith, Lead Trainer/Job Placement


Cooking Classes
Together with our professional guest chefs the younger kids will learn easy to make after school snacks, help with basic food prep while older kids will learn kitchen & cooking skills. Once a week the youth will prepare and serve a meal for the community.

Chefs Include:

  • Greg Nalley, Founder & Culinary Director, Nalley Fresh Restaurants
  • Monica E. Lapenta, founder, Be a Chef for a Day, Fresh Pasta Making
  • Chef Bryce Taylor, Teen Chef, “Chopped Junior” Finalist
  • University of MD Expanded Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)
  • Chefs from Local Food Distributors & Brokers

Urban Farming 
STEM programing around urban farming methods including microgreens with the City Hydro system. The abundant laboratory that surrounds us provides the perfect opportunity to teach the youthful minds in our neighborhoods the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and sustainable living through the process of growing and selling vegetables in the microgreen climate or classroom environment.


  • Dominic Nell, Urban Farmer, Owner of #CityWeeds, Director of #BeMoreGreen, Red Bull Amaphiko Fellow.

Healthy Literacy Program  

Each week the kids will have interactive books read to them while getting them active and moving. This will show how reading can be fun, while at the same time helping to combat childhood obesity.  We will incorporate a Blender Bike into the healthy fitness so the kids can make their own healthy after school smoothie treat while getting their heart beating to the books of the day.

Instructors Include:

  • Tavon Mason, Former NFL player, Founder & Director Tavon Mason Loves the Kids
  • Amanda Partin, Dance Teacher & Choreographer, Dance Explosion Performing Arts
  • Guest Readers w/ Smoothie Bike

“Table Talks” Mentorship

Mentors will guide topics around the dinner table that include healthy relationships, setting boundaries in relationships, asking for help, coping with triggers, self-nurturing, red and green flags, understanding recovery, compassion, nutrition, and public health. The kids might be separated into groups by sex or age depending on the topics.  Each mentor will have a different set of curriculum to help mix it up, but each will have multiple topics that will be chosen to meet the needs of the population and can creatively facilitated over the course of 8 weeks. 

Mentors Include:

  • Melvin Willingham, Executive Director, Makings of a Man Male Youth Initiative
  • Knicole Taylor, Co-Founder & Director, Empowering Minds of Maryland
  • Raymond E. Greene-Joyner, M.S., Assistant Director, The Family Tree
  • Nina Martin, Ph-D, Executive Officer, Science Communicator, Public Health United
  • Maribet Brute, MPH, UMD Expanded Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)

Food Production

Youth will learn how to produce, brand, market & sell a product. With proper funding we can bring the healthy snack production of SeedyNutty to SW Baltimore giving the youth the additional benefit of a job and a sense of pride.

Instructors Include:

  • Gail McGee, Pastry Chef, Transition Kitchen
  • Michelle Suazo, Creative Director, IndigoPark Design & Technology

Healthy Voice

Youth learn how to express themselves through filmmaking and the visual arts. Creative projects will include creating stories & documentaries around health & food themes. Designing menus, placemats, food packaging, monthly restaurant logo and even a new Seedy Nutty logo that will be in stores.

Instructors Include:

  • Michelle Suazo, Creative Director, IndigoPark Design & Technology
  • Vonnya Pettigrew, Executive Director, Root Branch Films



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The Food Project is an unprecedented collaboration of the business, non-profit, government and education sectors to offer youth in the underserved communities of South/West Baltimore programs that encompass Education, Health, Wellness, & Fitness, Character & Leadership, Workforce Development & Entrepreneurship.  The curriculum has been developed by sector leaders and currently consists of cooking skills, nutrition, education, urban farming, and active mentorship.  Our goal is to integrate with other programs working in the culinary, sports, technology, arts, sciences and mentorship arenas. 

The Food Project gives its young people the opportunity to see “there is a different way”.  We understand nothing is a panacea, however, by integrating a range of program elements, we believe The Food Project is a solid first step for these young people to get a glimpse of what healthy looks like from a holistic standpoint.  The program recognizes the current situations facing most of the children – limited resources, unhealthy lifestyle programming in their families and neighborhoods, a sense of hopelessness and desperation, and few actual options to change their situations.  All curricular elements make a point of showcasing people with similar backgrounds who have successfully improved their lives.  The Food Project makes tangible the idea that better is possible.

Younger children will be able to embrace the idea of a healthier lifestyle because we make the learning fun, non-threatening and useful. Older children will gain actual skills which open doors to gainful employment and are thus empowering.  The critical mentorship component of The Food Project exposes all children to positive role models, character development, decision-making, coping and interpersonal skills, respect and compassion.  We expect the older children to become mentors for the younger children, in the program, in their schools (as applicable) and in their communities.  

We are working on recognition constructs to acknowledge progress for all program participants. All our partners will offer opportunities for program participants to become further involved with their organizations and/or related outreach in their communities.  Current partners include:  UEMPOWER of Maryland, Transition Kitchen, Nalley Fresh, #BeMoreGreen, Tavon Mason Loves the Kids, Makings of a Man, Be A Chef for a Day, Healthy Little Chefs, Empowering Minds of Maryland, The Family Tree, Public Health United, UMD Expanded Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), Baltimore Healthy Communities for Kids (Bmore4Kids), City Hydro, Bent Carrot, BCPD Community Collaboration Division, Root Branch Films and FoodBridge, with the support of 9th District Councilman John Bullock and Councilwoman Rikki Spector. In addition to directly impacting youth in the South/West Baltimore communities, The Food Project works to addresses fundamental issues of food access and nutrition education in these communities and food waste on an even larger scale.        

Target Audience
Boys and girls ages 8-18 in/from South/West Baltimore, broken into two program groups ages 8-12 and 13-18.  Depending on participation and group dynamics, separate boys and girls groups will be considered.

Program Cost

Program Duration
8 week blocks on an ongoing basis annually.  Summer sessions may be different, depending on funding and interest.

Instructional Philosophy
Our instructional philosophy first and foremost recognizes the ages of the program participants AND the challenging environments from which they come.  It is a blend of structure, engagement, mentorship, and fun.  All of our “instructors” have worked extensively with young people and are adept at adapting to the dynamics of any given group or situation.  Within this, the shared goal is to provide a positive experience for all participants and given them useful information and skills for them to use in their daily lives.

Learning Objective for the Program
By the end of each program segment, participants will be able to safely prepare simple, healthy meals and have gained skills which can help lead to employment and/or entrepreneurship in the food service and urban farming industries.

The Food project is also looking into education & jobs with food production. Councilwoman Rikki Spector joined one of our young mentors, Mekhi Cole, from Makings of a Man to explore the possible opportunities with SeedyNutty, a healthy snack developed by Rosanne Skirble.

The Food project is also looking into education & jobs with food production. Councilwoman Rikki Spector joined one of our young mentors, Mekhi Cole, from Makings of a Man to explore the possible opportunities with SeedyNutty, a healthy snack developed by Rosanne Skirble.