Turning Disaster into Opportunity with CKA

Photo of Viviana in the kitchen.

In late summer of 2011, Viviana’s life changed almost instantly. She lost her small business. Then, Tropical Storm Irene flooded her home. Out of work with a severely damaged home, she reached out to Capstone Community Action for help.

“When I needed heating assistance and more food, I could access these services. Capstone literally became my life boat,” explains Viviana.

While working with Capstone staff, Viviana saw a sign for the Community Kitchen Academy (CKA), an intensive twelve-week job training program that prepares underemployed or unemployed Vermonters for careers in the food industry. This Vermont Foodbank program operates in partnership with Capstone Community Action in Barre. Students develop and apply culinary skills to rescue food that would otherwise go to waste, and create meals, which are then distributed through Capstone’s food shelf. Graduates can earn certifications and up to nine college-level academic credits. That’s when she began to see an opportunity in a disastrous situation.

As a child, Viviana loved to cook. Her grandmother and mother taught her traditional Mexican and southern style dishes. Dishes she taught her own daughter. Although cooking gave her confidence, Viviana never thought she could build a career out of cooking. She enrolled in the next CKA class.

For years, friends told Viviana to sell her salsa, a family recipe passed down from her grandmother. Now she began to imagine repairing her home with a commercial kitchen and starting a business to sell her salsa.

As a CKA student, she developed her cul