Since the 1950s, The Arc of Cumberland and Perry Counties has followed a mission to provide support, training, and opportunity to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
One way the Arc accomplishes this mission is through its Sassy Gourmet catering and baking program.
The program is a component of the Arc’s S. Wilson Pollock Center for Industrial Training (Pollock Center) Food Service Training Program; it serves a dual purpose as both food delivery service and food career instruction opportunity.
Community members are able to call ahead and place orders on entrees ranging from subs and salads to desserts. A variety of pre-packaged meals and fruit and vegetable platters are also offered.
“The work we do is generally with people that come to us because they need support,” said Arc Community Developer Anne Couldridge. “It is not just us doing what we do day in and day out, but it is still for the good of the community. We are always trying to find ways to keep involved with the community.”
The program also provides training in the areas of food preparation, baking, catering, cafeteria service, cashiering, and other food service utility work.
“We teach (the intellectually and developmentally disabled) about working cash registers, baking, and about other food service work,” Couldridge said. “The list is wide.”
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In addition, the program has contractual agreements with various state offices and with local prisons coordinated with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement — the latter of which involves a federal contract to provide meals to people being detained as they await deportation.
According to site supervisor John Heckman, the program was started as an extension of the Arc’s overall mission for advocacy.
“We have always worked to provide opportunities to people in the community,” Heckman said. “About 25 years ago we decided to start marketing our (food) services out to the community. We entered into a contract with the federal government with military entrance processing station members and that kind of kicked off the idea to get more into catering.”
Today, the program continues to prepare interested food workers for a future career in the food service industry.
“The main goal of the program is to provide training opportunities for people to move into a competitive job,” Heckman said. “(Workers) learn skills that are directly related to moving out and working at restaurants and other food service locations in the community. It is a hands-on process. The more work we can bring in to the facility, the more work opportunities (the workers) can get.”
Editor's note: This article was edited to reflect changes on Oct. 6, 2015, at 11 a.m.