News / USA

    Bakery Cooks Up a Sweet Future

    Trains special needs people for food industry jobs

    Tiffany Yanaway, 19, (r) and Katara Tyler, 17, are trainees at Sunflower Bakery, which helps people with learning disabilities find jobs in the baking industry.
    Tiffany Yanaway, 19, (r) and Katara Tyler, 17, are trainees at Sunflower Bakery, which helps people with learning disabilities find jobs in the baking industry.

    Step inside the kitchen of Sunflower Bakery and you’ll notice the typical sights, sounds and smells of a professional kitchen in action. But there is one thing that sets this bakery apart from others in the area: its special training program.

    Five days a week, two professional pastry chefs work one-on-one with young adults from the community who have developmental or other cognitive disabilities. Their goal is to teach them basic skills so they can become proficient enough to get jobs in the baking industry.

    During the 12-month training program, students spend about six months receiving professional instruction at Sunflower followed by a six-month internship, either in-house or at a local bakery.

    Sweet Dream

    Sara Portman Milner and Laurie Wexler founded the non-profit enterprise in 2009.

    Before launching Sunflower Bakery, Milner worked at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington developing their special needs program.

    Wexler had almost two decades of experience in program delivery and fundraising for non-profit organizations.

    "As a social worker, I met Laurie and she said to me one day, ‘What do you think about this idea of starting a bakery that would train people with disabilities to work in a bakery?’" Milner recalls, "and I said, ‘I’m all about that. I love baking, I love working with people with special needs to give them opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise, let’s try it.’”

    They started the bakery as a pilot program, and it grew from there.

    Perfect career choice


    Most of their trainees, who range in age from 18 to 27, are transitioning from school to the workplace. Sunflower is there to help ease that journey.

    After going through its training program, Verred Joharie (center in yellow) is now employed at Sunflower Bakery and hopes to have a career in the baking industry.
    After going through its training program, Verred Joharie (center in yellow) is now employed at Sunflower Bakery and hopes to have a career in the baking industry.

    They have a variety of disabilities, from language processing difficulties to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and bi-polar disorder to mild intellectual deficits.

    Because of their challenges, it usually takes them longer to learn and process information. Milner says that’s why baking can be a perfect career choice, since it involves a lot of structure and repetition.

    “This provides a socially acceptable way to get a job that you learn skills that are valued and needed, and you get paid with the structure built in,” says Milner.

    Gaining confidence


    Rachel Easterling, 23, has been working at the bakery on a part-time basis since April of this year and says working with the bakery staff has helped her gain confidence.

    “The way I am, they’re so patient with me. I feel like I will learn more here than anywhere else because they take their time with you, they’re not too busy, it’s like one-on-one with you. But if I go somewhere else everybody’s just too busy.”

    Treats baked by trainees at Sunflower Bakery
    Treats baked by trainees at Sunflower Bakery

    Trainee Verred Joharie, 21, has a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome, a disorder on the autistic spectrum. People with the disorder often have difficulty interacting with other people and adapting to new environments.

    But Joharie says her training at Sunflower has taught her to be more self-assured.

    “At the beginning I was unsure. I was confused, I was anxious. Now, since they’ve helped me, it’s like I can open my eyes to the world and see what I want to do, how the world works, including working environments. I want to put myself out there, but I know it’s going to take a little bit more time for me.”

    Into the workforce

    Joharie was one of five students to graduate from Sunflower’s training program this past September - the first group to complete the program since it began.

    Sunflower Bakery's desserts are boxed and ready to be delivered.
    Sunflower Bakery's desserts are boxed and ready to be delivered.

    The aspiring young baker did so well that Sunflower hired her - for pay - right after she completed her internship at a local caterer.

    The other graduates also have promising futures in the baking industry.

    Milner says the training program has been life changing for many of her students.

    “When we started Sunflower bakery, we knew we wanted to try to give people opportunities," she says. "We had no idea how phenomenal the impact would be on trainees. And we’ve had people who’ve turned their lives around.”

    Milner says she hopes to be able to expand her bakery from the industrial setting where it’s currently located and add another site, with a full storefront and café, where trainees can further develop their culinary skills.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora