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Street Food Institute’s entrepreneurship training program receives federal recognition

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Since 2017, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has supported the Street Food Institute through their mobile food operations curriculum, paid internships and culinary entrepreneurship program in partnership with Central New Mexico Community College (CNM).

For almost a decade, the Street Food Institute (SFI) has been successfully providing real-world business experience to CNM students aspiring to be food entrepreneurs. The program has been so successful, in fact, that it went public – opening the program up to anyone who wants to start a food business in the greater Bernalillo County area.

Today, we’re proud to congratulate the Street Food Institute for being awarded $2 million in Congressionally Directed Spending secured by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico.

This funding, utilized in partnership with Homewise, will help support the construction of a 10,000-square-foot building in the Barelas community of South Albuquerque, which will house a small business commissary and food entrepreneurship training programs. This will allow for more small family-owned food businesses to participate and continue to grow the state’s local food economy while developing strong future business leaders.

SFI Executive Director Tina Garcia-Shams believes that food has an amazing capacity to connect people.

Tina Garcia-Shams, executive director of Street Food Institute

“We are a part of an evolving food culture that looks to provide increased choices of nourishing and affordable food that are not only tasty, but also build community and entrepreneurial wealth. Increasing financial security for vulnerable families and children by securing living wages for food entrepreneurs and their hired staff is the primary purpose of our work.”

Tina Garcia-Shams, Executive Director of SFI

Meet the chefs

SFl’s current programming provides students with invaluable hands-on experience, classroom instruction on food entrepreneurship and a support system to help them accomplish their goals. Students gain hands-on experience working with the SFI food trucks as well as working with the head chef in the SFI kitchen developing recipes and basic culinary skills.

COVID-19 has hit the food and hospitality industry especially hard. Despite that, SFI has helped businesses like The Bowman Life, LLC. launch and grow.

“During the pandemic SFI was able to adapt their programming to continue in a virtual manner,” says private chef Brian Bowman. “After conditions allowed, the SFI kitchen became available for me and others in the program to do hands-on work, putting into practice the lessons that we learned in the earlier portions of the program. Street Food Institute is often a student’s or graduate’s first industry employer, food purchaser, or commercial kitchen location and the organization continues to stand by students and graduates as their careers progress even in the worst of times.”

Chef Brian Bowman
Photo courtesy of chef Brian Bowman.

Another small business launched during the height of the pandemic has turned a profit. The small dessert business Tania’s Tasty Kitchen has had over $30,000 in sales in the first year of operating while at the SFI kitchen. This early success now allows the owner to purchase a dessert food truck, with hope to provide a brunch menu in the future.

Tania Parrillo, owner and pastry chef at Tania’s Tasty Kitchen

“Without their knowledge, guidance and programming and access to their community kitchen, I wouldn’t be able to maintain my business,” says Tania Parrillo, owner and pastry chef at Tania’s Tasty Kitchen. “Their program has allowed me to grow my business steadily, while maneuvering being a first-time entrepreneur.”

The privilege of working with all the students and seeing them become successful business owners has been the highlight in Garcia-Shams life and career.

"Being a part of someone’s journey that changes their life is humbling for me. Having a small part in fulfilling their dream for not only them but their entire family is such a privilege. That’s why I do this work – it brings me so much joy to watch them thrive.”

Tina Garcia-Shams

Launching wrap around services

SFI is moving into, yet another phase primarily funded through another successful federal grant award from United States Department of Commerce – Economic Development Administration. This second phase includes wrap around services to help new businesses stabilize and eventually thrive by:

  • Providing services and individual consultations for current and graduating students in accounting, marketing and tax and legal support;
  • Helping food entrepreneurs secure microloans to be used toward strengthening and improving their businesses;
  • Developing an online portal to house all the curriculum and tools for the general public; and
  • Expanding into San Juan and Grant counties through partnerships with local colleges and already established entrepreneurship organizations.

Participating entrepreneurs will include SFI program graduates from Phase I. The program is open to entrepreneurs who were adversely affected by COVID-19 and are transitioning their business.

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