The grant, provided by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Economic Development, will fund the CDC and its Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center to further develop a working community of previously incarcerated people that has been growing since 2015. increase. The grant is part of the Office’s Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grants Program.
In the past, CDC and the Food Processing Center have worked with correctional facilities in Franklin and Hampshire counties and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office’s Kimball House Program. The grant is expected to strengthen these existing partnerships as well as foster new partnerships with Stone Soup Cafe’s Culinary Institute, Working Fields, and Community Action Pioneer Valley.
Liz Buxton, Director of Operations for the Food Processing Center, said: “This brings it all together. …It will definitely help us grow a little more.”
The grant will fund two additional staff at the food processing center by June 2023, with the potential for full-time employment thereafter. Help conduct entrepreneurship and food production workshops at correctional facilities in Franklin and Hampshire counties. Make the food processing center serve as an internship site for the Culinary Institute of Stone Soup Cafe. Begins his two-day food safety and product development course for former incarcerated individuals with the University of Massachusetts Amherst Food Science Extension team.
CDC Executive Director John Waite said expanding the program would increase opportunities for people to find new jobs and recover from incarceration. He said the workplace brings stability to someone’s life, especially when release from prison can be a chaotic situation.
Buxton agreed, saying people could be more successful in reintegrating into their communities if they had jobs and income. Her personal mission and her CDC goal is to help people live successful lives while stimulating local economies, she added.
“Being able to get a job and a place to stay and get back on your feet after being released is very important,” Buxton said. “A lot of them can’t get jobs. People aren’t interested in working with them. My motto is, ‘I don’t really care what you’ve done. Where are you now and I care about where I want to be and who I want to be.”
With an existing framework already in place, Wait said the program is poised to scale quickly.
“You can get started right away, no startup required,” says Waite. “It’s great that[the state]recognizes the economic value of getting a stronger workforce and looking to those incarcerated.”
Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4081.