(June 2, 2016) As a teaching chef for Metropolitan Ministries’ Inside the Box Culinary Arts Program, Eric Champagne feels like he’s not just teaching homeless or formerly homeless men and women how to prepare food. He’s teaching them life skills so they can enter the job force.
“A lot of these folks have never even held jobs,” Champagne said. “This program teaches them about being accountable, showing up on time and preparing high-quality food for customers.”
Now the Inside the Box program has a presence at Tampa International Airport in the form of “grab-and-gourmet” sandwiches, wraps, salads, yogurt parfaits and other treats. The items, prepared by the Metropolitan Ministries culinary students, are currently sold at the temporary Stellar Bay location at Airside C and will eventually be sold at that Airside’s permanent location, as well as the Stellar Bay stores at Airsides A and F, which will open next year.
Profits made from the food sold will go back to Metropolitan Ministries’ programs to feed homeless people around the Tampa Bay area. But more importantly, the Inside the Box program helps people become employable in the culinary field as they earn their way to externships at local restaurants such as Ulele and Mise en Place and eventually find permanent cook or chef jobs.
“The jobs are great – the job training is even more important,” said Metropolitan Ministries CEO Tim Marks. “We want to create jobs and train individuals to find jobs outside of Metropolitan Ministries so they’ll be able to work in some of the best restaurants in town.”
Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano visited the Metropolitan Ministries teaching kitchen last week and commended the program’s students, as well as Stellar Partners for introducing Inside the Box to TPA through the concessions redevelopment program.
“The only reason that Tampa International Airport exists is to bring benefit to the people of our region – whether that be through the creation of jobs, tourism or commerce,” Lopano said. “That’s what we do every day.”
“I’m very honored to be part of this mission and to do whatever I can to help,” he said to the students. “I’m very proud of all of you for what you’re doing, for how you are changing your lives.”
Stellar Partners CEO Susan Stackhouse said she’s been involved in charity work with Metropolitan Ministries for several years and when she heard about the Inside the Box mission, she thought it sounded like a great local program to integrate into her bid for news convenience concessions in the redevelopment program. Stellar Partners was awarded a contract for the stores last June and has been working with Inside the Box to create a profitable program with the right packaging and variety for TPA passengers.
“Tampa is home – it’s important to be able to give back to the community that has supported me and my company for all these years,” said Susan Stackhouse, CEO of Stellar Partners. “We’re excited that we finally have Inside the Box grab-and-gourmet at Tampa International Airport.”
“The merchandise is flying of the shelves,” said Stackhouse. “This is truly a win-win partnership for everybody in the Tampa Bay community.”