FareStart (Seattle)

  • Local Projects
  • 1994

Chef and entrepreneur David Lee floundered around for several years when he set out to help feed, and then employ, some of Seattle’s homeless. Then in 1994 he received a grant from the local Medina Foundation (which had been giving away about $4 million a year since its founding by philanthropist Norton Clapp in 1947) so that Lee could rebuild his kitchen. The efficient new setup allowed his nonprofit to begin to thrive as a working restaurant and catering service that employed the homeless. Soon, 60 percent of its operating budget was coming from sales and 90 percent of its trainees were employed after they graduated from the program (with 70 percent still employed a year later, both extraordinary rates for this population).

The program expanded over time. With funding from Medina, a café was started at Antioch College. Top chefs from all over Seattle began to donate their time. Today, FareStart trains 800 struggling individuals per year. In 2011 it launched an effort to bring its formula to organizations in other cities, and now dozens of similar nonprofit operations are loosely linked through its Catalyst Kitchens network.