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Kessler Foundation Awards $500,000 for Work-Readiness Training for Disabled

Funding to help the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation enhance its Restaurant Ready program to better include people with disabilities

By Todd R. Berger

4.28.23 Kessler Foundation Grant Support Training for Disabled Workers AdobeStock_510275240
A cafe worker with Downs Syndrome; Kessler Foundation grants will support work-readiness training for workers with disabilities. CREDIT Adobe Stock/

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) will strengthen its work-readiness training for people with disabilities through its Hospitality Pathways project thanks to $500,000 in Signature Employment Grant funding from Kessler Foundation.

The project builds on the NRAEF’s commitment to attracting and retaining restaurant and foodservice workers from all backgrounds by equipping them with training and education. Thanks to grant funds from Kessler Foundation, the project aims to expand access for people with disabilities to NRAEF’s Restaurant Ready program work-readiness resources, as well as job and career opportunities in the restaurant and foodservice industry. Originally awarded as a $250,000 Signature Employment Grant in late 2022, the project was recently approved for a second year of Kessler Foundation funding worth an additional $250,000.

“We’re excited about the progress we’ll achieve, thanks to these funds, in improving Restaurant Ready’s efforts to increase the access for people with disabilities to work-readiness training and career opportunities,” says Rob Gifford, president of the NRAEF. “With the support of Kessler Foundation, we’re making strides to ensure everyone can take advantage of the job and growth opportunities that are abundant in the industry.”

“Jobs in the hospitality sector continue to grow as the economy recovers from the pandemic,” says Elaine E. Katz, senior vice president of grants and communications at Kessler Foundation. “We are hopeful that this project brings a new pool of talent to the attention of employers to consider beyond entry-level positions.”

With the help of state restaurant associations and community-based organization partners in some states, the NRAEF will strengthen its materials, Restaurant Ready delivery, and career pathway and apprenticeship opportunities to increase access options for people with disabilities. The updated Hospitality Pathways Universal Design for Learning enhancements will be piloted with a group of 100 participants through the following state restaurant associations and community-based organizations before being disseminated to more than 60 partner sites across 22 states and shared with the overall hospitality industry:

  • Colorado Restaurant Association & Skills Academy Vocational Center
  • Delaware Restaurant Association & Food Bank of Delaware
  • Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association & Peckham Human Services

As one of the NRAEF’s signature programs, Restaurant Ready helps people acquire basic job and life skills necessary to pursue industry jobs. Through a partnership with state restaurant associations and community-based organizations, individuals receive training in six work-ready competency areas, defined by the hospitality industry, that are designed to help them acquire skills, discipline, and confidence to start a job in the industry and remain employed. The NRAEF’s state restaurant association partners link these participants to local employers, and community-based organizations provide further wraparound services to eliminate success barriers.