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

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid