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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs