Food Bank Providing Ingredients To Change Lives Of Tulsa Youth
TULSA, Oklahoma - For several years now, News On 6 has been proud to partner with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma to help feed hungry Oklahomans.
Our focus has been on children, particularly through the Food for Kids backpack program, but because of your support, the food bank is able to expand its programs this year.
Kyle Kirk, 22, hasn't had a lot of breaks in his young life.
“I grew up in DHS custody, so whenever I aged out they got me my own apartment,” he said.
With no guidance or experience, he soon found himself living on the streets.
“I've been homeless off and on for the past four years of my life,” said Kirk.
He eventually found help at Tulsa's Youth Services, which in turn, led him to a remarkable collaboration.
“I love cooking. Food is one of the few things I tend to spoil myself with,” Kirk said.
Seven young people are chosen for a 16-week program under the tutelage of Food Bank Executive Chef Jeff Marlow, where they'll learn everything they need to get a foothold on a whole new pathway in life.
“If they want to be in this business, they'll be able to go anywhere in the world and find a job. So I think that's pretty cool,” Marlow said.
Lessons include everything from knife skills to menu planning, but the benefits go both ways.
“The trade for that is we're able to produce more meals that we're able to feed to the community that needs it,” said Marlow.
The chef said he can use the help.
“So far today, we've prepped for All Souls, 200 people we're feeding tonight, three different schools,” he said.
In fact, on this day alone, the kitchen will turn out 600 meals, which means the job is not for the faint-hearted.
After eight weeks, three of the kids have already dropped out, but those who remain have found a true role model in Marlow.
“He's real cool. You can talk to him about anything, real hands on. You can learn anything from that man,” one student said.
Marlow has plans for their future that extend well beyond graduation day.
“We want to be able to find them jobs in the Tulsa area if this is really what they want to do,” Marlow said. “So they're already excited about the possibilities and opportunities they're going to have here in Tulsa.”
For Kirk, it's the just the break he needed.
“As of right now, because I'm working this program and I'm trying to make something of myself, Youth Services has helped me out with an apartment,” he said.
Marlow expects the kids to graduate sometime in December, and then the program will start again, giving another seven kids a shot at the kitchen.
News On 6 is raising money at the fair to help the Food Bank continue and expand its work. You can stop by our booth and put your money on the anchor you most want to see kiss a pig.
So far more than $3,800 has been donated, and right now LeAnne Taylor is in the lead with almost $778, but Travis Meyer is in a close second.