USDOL Awards “HOPES” Reentry Program $4M to Train Justice-Involved Individuals for Jobs and Careers in the Restaurant Industry

National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation will use funds to expand “hopes” to four new states –DELAWARE, TEXAS, MICHIGAN, AND OHIO

WASHINGTON, DC – June 28, 2021 – The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) announced today the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has awarded its HOPES (Hospitality Opportunities for People (re)Entering Society) program $4 million. The NRAEF will use the funds to launch HOPES sites in four new states – Delaware, Michigan, Ohio, and Texas. HOPES is a job skills training program to train and prepare justice-involved individuals for jobs and careers in the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industries.

HOPES helps justice-involved individuals gain industry-specific skills, facilitates career exploration, and addresses barriers to sustained employment, with the ultimate goal of increasing employment opportunities and reducing recidivism. Participants are required to complete the training and achieve at least one industry credential to successfully graduate from the program.

HOPES meets a growing need to help justice involved individuals receive the skills training, mentoring and job placement services they need to re-enter society and start building a pathway to independence. Without programs like HOPES, the unemployment rate for individuals leaving the justice system is 5 times the national average.

Working closely with community-based organizations, departments of correction and state restaurant associations, the NRAEF will use the funds to bring HOPES to nine communities in four states. These new HOPES sites will join existing programs in Chicago, Illinois; Boston, Massachusetts; and in Richmond and Farmville, Virginia.

The restaurant industry is well-suited to support justice-involved individuals and has a long history of being both a first job opportunity and offering second chances to people from all backgrounds. The hospitality industry had nearly 1.4 million open jobs at the end of May. Providing training and employment opportunities to justice-involved individuals is a way to support communities while helping businesses hire and re-staff.

“We are honored to be part of this national effort to support individuals involved with the justice system and are thrilled to expand the work of our HOPES initiative to reach more communities,” said Rob Gifford, President, NRAEF. “With this generous grant, we look forward to opening more doors of opportunity for anyone trying to get their life back on track and putting our industry back on its feet – it’s a win-win.”

Chicago HOPES participant Ernest Green completed the HOPES program and was hired by MOD Pizza. Ernest was promoted within one month from MOD Squad Team Member to MOD Squad AllStar at the MOD Pizza restaurant in Evergreen Park, Illinois. “My life has changed for the better already with MOD,” he said. MOD Pizza is the program’s first national employer partner.

HOPES youth participant Ernest Green (right) visited a MOD Pizza location last month as part of an Industry Skills Tour facilitated by the HOPES program and partner community-based organization Lawrence Hall. Ernest now is employed by MOD Pizza.
VIDEO: Click here to watch how HOPES changes lives

About HOPES: HOPES partners with Departments of Corrections, community-based organizations, state restaurant associations and workforce entities as part of a community collaborative model. These partner organizations provide case management services and industry-recognized credentials utilizing an NRAEF training framework focused on the competencies needed to enter the restaurant and hospitality industry.

HOPES partners with interested individuals at participating correctional facilities, as well as after release and during parole. Once a HOPES participant completes training, the individual will be placed in a local restaurant and/or foodservice position and receive follow-up support for a year. Hospitality apprenticeships will also be available to participants.

Funding for HOPES is made possible through a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. This announcement was created by NRAEF and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. The Department of Labor makes no guarantees, warranties, or assurances of any kind, express or implied, with respect to such information, including any information on linked sites and including, but not limited to, accuracy of the information or its completeness, timeliness, usefulness, adequacy, continued availability, or ownership.



About the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation:As the philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s mission of service to the public 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 todays 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 and previously incarcerated individuals 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. For more information on the NRAEF, visit

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Media Contacts:
Mallory Domingue

Vanessa Sink

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