Food for Employment

A Recipe for Success: Transforming the lives of at-risk young adults in Israel through training, mentoring, and employment within the food industry

  The Dualis Social Investment Fund is in the process of scaling up a highly successful program providing at-risk young adults with professional training in food services along with vital social support, to help them acquire skills that will lead to future employment and personal stability. The goal of this five-year program is to provide training and jobs for 500 at-risk young adults each year, on a national basis across the different regions and communities in Israel.

The program, which will launch with a short-term planning period and pilot, will help existing restaurants embrace the social mission of preparing at-risk young adults for long-term employment. The program offers tangible benefits for both the participants and the employers: for the participants – training, steady employment, and social inclusion; for the restaurants – a pipeline of cooks, dedicated employees, a sense of social purpose beyond financial profit, and a boost to their public image. Throughout this program Dualis will provide guidance and support for existing restaurants that choose to move to the social business model and incorporate into their business activity the training, mentoring, and employment of local at-risk young adults.

By the conclusion of the five-year project, Dualis expects to have transformed up to 100 Israeli restaurants into social businesses, with 500 at-risk young adults per year, receiving training, mentoring, and employment in social restaurants across the country.

Israel’s food industry encompasses 10,000 restaurants and experiences an ongoing, sizable shortage of trained cooks. Each year, as many as 900 cook positions remain open, and restaurants struggle to fill the positions in order to meet customer demand. At the same time, there are more than 100,000 at-risk youth and young adults in Israel, all of whom have challenging personal circumstances. Established in 2009, Dualis has garnered significant experience – and success – around the creation and sustainability of social restaurants, including business partnerships with some of Israel’s leading chefs who have embraced the social mission of the program.

The Fund has invested in eight social food businesses, of which Malka (formerly Liliyot) in Tel Aviv and ANNA in Jerusalem are the best known. Dualis has demonstrated that social restaurants are a viable model for the training and steady employment of at-risk youth, and the social restaurants have yielded 350 graduates to date. Program assessments show that 90% of participants continue to be independent and productive citizens five years after graduation. Dualis’ programs have also shown that training in a professional kitchen with the required social supports not only accelerates the learning process, but also provides each participant with daily access to a hot meal – something which many of these young people in the program do not have otherwise.

Upon successful roll-out, Dualis expects that the Israeli government will adopt this program and will continue its implementation. The Food for Employment program has great potential to improve young lives while providing a much-needed employee resource in the food and restaurant industry. This program replication initiative may serve as a model, in Israel and elsewhere, for the development of businesses that incorporate an invaluable social element and change people’s lives for the better.