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Hunger Beat

52 Stories, 52 Weeks: A new chance

Teresa Hamilton poses with Chicago's Community Kitchens Director Paul Le Beau and Food Depository Executive Director and CEO Kate Maehr after receiving her diploma.
Teresa Hamilton struggled with unemployment for a long time. She wasn’t the person she had always hoped she would be. She had been to jail, and didn’t have much drive in life.

But that changed when she was accepted into the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s Chicago’s Community Kitchens program.

“The program completely changed my life,” Teresa said. “It gave me my life back and made me a better person.”

Chicago’s Community Kitchens is a 14-week training program for underemployed and unemployed individuals. The program prepares students for a career in the foodservice industry.

For Teresa, the program was a wakeup call. Every day, she needed to get out of bed at 4:30 a.m. to make sure she got to the Food Depository on time.

“I learned, rather quickly, that we have to be accountable for our actions,” she said. “We have to step up and take charge of our lives if we want to succeed.”

That’s exactly what Teresa did. She spent hours in the kitchen learning knife skills, how to bake, grill, and measure ingredients. She also learned proper food handling techniques. Outside of the kitchen, she overcame struggles with culinary math, and graduated from the program this fall. She was the class speaker, and is now employed at J&L Catering, one of Chicago’s premier catering companies.

“The CCK staff often said, ‘Today is the first day of your life,’” Teresa said. “Every day, we took a step towards graduation, and all those steps have added up to one huge accomplishment.”

Learn more about Chicago's Community Kitchens or apply online at

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