Spotlight On: Roberti Community House

Roberti Community House

On a recent Friday afternoon in Waukegan, the Roberti Community House’s Culinary Pathway’s dining room was packed full of local non-profit do-gooders noshing on chili, blackened catfish, sweetly fried hush puppies, apple-cranberry coleslaw and maple-cream cheese frosted carrot cake muffins. It was a normal Friday for the staff and students of the program, but for the diners, it was a special opportunity to see (and taste) the successes of the Roberti Culinary Pathway.

The Roberti Community House opened its doors in 2011 with a mission to nourish, educate and empower community members so that they can acknowledge, appreciate and actualize their individual strengths and talents. Today, one of the ways that this is accomplished is through an innovative culinary and life skills training program for adults (aged 18 or older) from Waukegan and nearby underserved communities.

The Roberti Culinary Pathway, now in its second year of operation, is a tuition-free, hands-on program where six students are intensively trained by a professional culinary instructor over the course of nine weeks. The students are taught food preparation, safety and sanitation, cooking techniques, proper use of equipment, kitchen communications and other skills necessary to enter the foodservice workforce.

The program offers a “path out of poverty” to its students and helps fill an increasing demand for quality foodservice personnel in Lake County. To-date, 95 percent of its 29 graduates have found employment opportunities in restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, corporations, hotels, schools and catering businesses.

The Roberti Culinary Pathway also provides free meals to local food pantries, community centers, homeless shelters, summer feeding programs and other organizations in need of healthy, nutritious meals. On Fridays, the program invites members of the community to its dining room for lunches that are prepared and served by the students. In total, the Roberti Culinary Pathway has provided more than 11,500 meals to the community since opening in January 2018.
In addition to the Roberti Culinary Pathway, the nonprofit also provides more than 20 adult and youth educational and enrichment programs, health and well-being programs and special community-focused events. Because of Roberti’s close connections with  its neighbors and volunteers and because of its openness and responsiveness to new ideas, the community house always has newly emerging and evolving programs.

That’s how its cooking class first formed and how its after-school programing has developed. Roberti Community House has offered more than 80 crock pot classes for adults and additional cooking classes for kids so that families can learn how to prepare healthy meals after learning that many received food from the nearby pantry but didn’t know how to prepare it. And the after-school program has changed from a safe place for kids to go after school into a twice-a-week program that provides a full meal, homework help, crafts, science experiments, games and access to library books for its students.

Something that never changes at Roberti Community House is the value that is placed on giving back. Everyone involved in its programming is also encouraged to volunteer and give back. Roberti Community House believes that it both empowers and inspires the people it serves. Up next on Roberti’s give back mission is participating in the neighborhood’s annual clean up event. Roberti is expecting more than 60 people to help clean up the area and clean out its local gardens. Of course, after a long day of neighbors volunteering together and supporting each other, the Roberti Community House plans to feed and “nourish the community.”
Roberti Community House Success Story:

Nina first became involved with the Roberti Community House through its weekly Food, Fun and Friendship support group and its Nutrition and Crockpot cooking class. As her interest in cooking developed, she learned about the Roberti Culinary Pathway. After Nina attended classes at the community house to improve her language skills, she was able to join the pathway program. Nina thrived and successfully completed the Roberti Culinary Pathway course and received both a ServSafe Food Handler Certificate and a ServSafe Manager Certificate.  Nina developed a passion for baking while in the program and knew she wanted a job that would allow her to further develop her cooking and baking skills.

With Roberti’s help, Nina secured employment at a premier assisted living facility with a large restaurant and extensive dining services. She cooks and bakes on the early shift, which allows Nina to be home when her children come home from school. Nina enjoys her job and her employer is thrilled with her work. She also is being recruited by a local corporation to work in their kitchen. With a strong foundation, job support and encouragement, Nina now sees new pathways for her education and career development. She is interested in pursuing a nursing degree so that she can work with the residents in the facility as a medical professional.

Roberti Community House By the Numbers: 

More than 10,000 people have been impacted by
Roberti Community
House’s programming
8,853 pounds of fresh produce was rescued by Roberti Community House and distributed
to the communty
in 2018
282 students
attend Roberti
House’s after-
school programs
in 2018
Roberti has held
88 crock pot
classes since 2013;
264 crock pts have
been provided to participants
Middle schoolers
in Roberti’s Junior Green Youth Farm program have been tending community gardens for 8 years
Roberti Culinary Pathway has provided 11,500 meals to the community since January 2018

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