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Homeward Bound of Marin’s Fresh Starts Culinary Academy will benefit from a state grant. Photo courtesy of Homeward Bound of Marin

Culinary training and support services to enter the workforce will grow at Homeward Bound of Marin with help from $750,000 in state grant funding.

   The award from California’s “Breaking Barriers Initiative” focuses on career training and creating employment pathways through the Fresh Starts Culinary Academy, Homeward Bound’s 10-week program in core culinary skills.

   With the grant, Homeward Bound plans to expand capacity and partnerships for the program that has operated in Novato since 2001. The agency also serves as Marin County’s chief provider of shelter and supportive housing for families and adults transitioning out of homelessness.

   “Homeward Bound is thrilled and grateful to expand training options for our culinary students, enhancing skills and providing amazing, collaborative opportunities to grow in the dynamic food industry,” said Mary Kay Sweeney, Homeward Bound’s co-chief executive officer.

   Students from Homeward Bound’s shelter and housing programs, as well as low-income students from the community, receive the award-winning Fresh Starts training plus job placement support at no cost. The current class of students began Jan. 3.

   The grant allows Homeward Bound to add support and training for culinary graduates in six-month transitional jobs, including a new culinary instructor position. Transitional employees work in the agency’s social enterprise businesses, including The Key Room event venue and Wagster Treats premium dog biscuits.

   Another addition is a new partnership with Community Action Marin to provide bilingual financial literacy training and professional development coaching for transitional employees, as well as outreach support to future students. Homeward Bound also plans to restart an employer advisory board for Fresh Starts Culinary Academy that paused during the pandemic.

   “Our collaboration will focus on employment readiness and job placement to ensure graduates are successful in securing meaningful employment once they complete the program,” says Heather Bettini, CAM’s senior director of economic justice.

    Homeward Bound maintains wraparound support services for trainees, including transit vouchers, professional development courses, life skills training, job search assistance, housing navigation, and links to community resources for healthcare, mental health, childcare or other needs.

   Fresh Starts Culinary Academy offers four 10-week sessions per year and expects to serve approximately 50 students plus transitional employees this year. In 2022, 82% of those enrolled in the training were unhoused and 85% of graduates secured employment within 30 days of completing the course. For more information, visit


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