Inmates at the Flagler County jail now have a way to acquire a delicious job skill they can use to secure legal employment once they’ve regained their freedom.
The Homeward Bound Initiative (HBI) launched last year in partnership with Flagler Technical College (FTC) now offers a certificate in Culinary/Food Service Management to go along with its current certificate programs in Pre- HVAC (Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning) and Vinyl Graphics Applications. HBI provides certificate courses for inmates to learn a trade or skill while they are incarcerated, improving their chances to obtain employment and not return to the jail after their release.
The newest certification requires student-inmates at the Sheriff Perry Hall Inmate Detention Facility to attend classes twice a week for 15 weeks, providing them 120 hours of instruction under the tutelage of a professional chef who works at the Beachfront Grille in Flagler Beach.
The first round of culinary classes started on August 1, 2022. Five inmates received their certifications on October 13, 2022 after passing their final exams the day prior, according to Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly. Some of the inmates already have jobs waiting for them upon their release from jail.
“This is another example of the tremendous opportunities that are being provided to inmates in the jail who want to improve themselves and their chances of not returning to a life of crime,” Sheriff Staly noted. “We are focusing not only on addiction and mental health treatment but also on trade skills for inmates who are serious about turning their lives around. I’m very proud and thankful for the collaboration we have with our community partners to make our Homeward Bound Programs successful. And, I have to say, these inmates have talent because they managed to make seaweed taste pretty good!”
“This is a great win-win opportunity for the inmates and the restaurants in Flagler County,” said Jamie Boudreau, owner of the Beachfront Grille. “We are all enduring staffing challenges and this program will help fill a gap in our industry as well as provide inmates with the chance to obtain good employment in a high-demand market.”
Mr. Boudreau is a retired law enforcement officer from the northeast.
In addition to learning basic culinary skills, food preparation and meal preparation, each graduate earned the ServSafe Food Service Manager Certification, accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)- Conference for Food Protection (CFP) and the National Restaurant Association.
In this public/private partnership, no taxpayer monies are used to fund this program. Instead, all food product was either donated or purchased through the Inmate Welfare Program, which is funded without tax dollars.
FTC is the adult division of the Flagler County School District and accredited through the Council on Occupational Education. It focuses on career and technical education programs for high-demand trades in Flagler and surrounding counties.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the Food Service Managers field is expected to see 10% job growth nationwide through 2031. The median salary for specialists in the field is currently just under $60,000 annually.