National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation Kicks Off Community Collaborative to Train Chicago Youth, Reentry Population for Restaurant Careers

Funding from PepsiCo spurs the initiative, investing in a community collaborative for the city of Chicago

CHICAGO, IL – May 20, 2019 – The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) announced yesterday a new community collaborative between local restaurants, nonprofits and its Restaurant Ready program to train young people disconnected from the workforce and formerly incarcerated populations in work-readiness skills to prepare them for careers in restaurants and foodservice.

The announcement kicked off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony during the National Restaurant Association Show with appearances and remarks from local and national leaders supporting the initiative, including Merary Simeon, Vice President, Diversity and Engagement, PepsiCo; Stanley Moore, Cook County Board Commissioner; Harry Alston, Jr., Ph.D., Vice President of Strategic Planning & Development, The Safer Foundation; and Rob Gifford, Executive Vice President of the NRAEF.

“The community collaborative presents an incredible opportunity to grow the work of the Foundation to serve the local community in Chicago,” said Gifford, Executive Vice President of the NRAEF. “We are ecstatic to bring together these local partners that already effectively train and employ young people who are not currently working and previously incarcerated individuals looking to reenter the workforce.”

The joint initiative looks to bridge the gap between community organizations and restaurant employers to connect career opportunities to the individuals who need it most, leveraging restaurants and foodservice companies as a first-step to employment – and ultimately, serve as a national model to bolster workforce efforts across the country.
“We’re deeply committed to empowering our associates and the communities we serve,” said Merary Simeon, Vice President of Diversity and Engagement, PepsiCo. “Joining forces across nonprofit, public and private sectors is a phenomenal way to drive real change for young people who can thrive in our communities when given the right support.”
Through the community collaborative, the NRAEF will unite the key organizations which serve as experts in successfully training both populations in Chicago, including:

  • The Hatchery, a Chicago non-profit food and beverage business incubator that enables local entrepreneurs to build and grow successful businesses, which create economic growth and new job opportunities;

  • The Safer Foundation, one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit providers of services designed exclusively for people with criminal records;

  • Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (IRAEF), a nonprofit dedicated to building Illinois' hospitality workforce and will identify key employers and connections to industry for disconnected youth and previously incarcerated individuals;

  • PepsiCo, which offers complementary food and beverage portfolio that includes Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola, Quaker and Tropicana, will provide funding for the initiative.

The program will officially begin June 1.
About the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation
As the philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation is dedicated to enhancing the industry’s training and education, career development and community engagement efforts. The NRAEF and its programs work to Attract, Empower and Advance today’s and tomorrow’s restaurant and foodservice workforce. NRAEF programs include:  ProStart® – a high-school career and technical education program; Restaurant Ready – partnering with community based organizations to provide “opportunity youth” with skills training and job opportunities; Military – helping military servicemen and women transition their skills to restaurant and foodservice careers; Scholarships – financial assistance for students pursuing restaurant, foodservice and hospitality degrees; and, the Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship Project – a partnership with the American Hotel & Lodging Association providing a  hospitality apprenticeship program for the industry.
Visit to learn how to get involved with the NRAEF and its work to build pathways to meaningful jobs and careers in restaurants and.
About PepsiCo
PepsiCo products are enjoyed by consumers more than one billion times a day in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. PepsiCo generated more than $64 billion in net revenue in 2018, driven by a complementary food and beverage portfolio that includes Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola, Quaker and Tropicana. PepsiCo's product portfolio includes a wide range of enjoyable foods and beverages, including 22 brands that generate more than $1 billion each in estimated annual retail sales.

Guiding PepsiCo is our vision to Be the Global Leader in Convenient Foods and Beverages by Winning with Purpose. “Winning with Purpose” reflects our ambition to win sustainably in the marketplace and embed purpose into all aspects of the business.  For more information, visit
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Jasmine Jones

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Starting today, students, military servicemen and women and individuals pursuing a restaurant, foodservice or hospitality career can apply for scholarships and grants offered by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF).

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