PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A returning citizen who learned culinary and life skills at local non-profit food bank Philabundance, goes back to where it all started to help others make a positive changes in their lives.
Tahib Ali was at the end of a four-year prison sentence for identity theft, false documentation, and insurance fraud when he enrolled at the Philabundance Community Kitchen culinary arts training program.
“I realized I owed more to my family, my wife, and my daughter to do something better, something stable, something more secure,” Ali said.
PCK works with low-to-no-income men and women, and teaches them how to cook in an effort to help rebuild their lives.
“Culinary was far from the radar initially, it was just the way god planned it to be that led me into this field,” said Ali.
Every day the people in the program make meals for a women’s shelter and emergency food kitchens in North Philadelphia.
Ali says he quickly realized he had a knack for cooking and, by sticking with it, he was able to learn a lot about himself.
“Cooking was a way to utilize the talents that you learned through cooking, but being a better person was what they were teaching you through the program itself,” he said.
“During the 14-week program, students do more than just learn how to cook and get a job. They work with a coach to make sure they excel in all aspects of life,” said Shontae Graham, Dean of Students and life coach at PCK. “The first time I meet them, I tell them this program is not about cooking. First and foremost you need to know, this program is about you.”
He says just like the students follow a recipe in the kitchen, he has them follow one for life.
“I help them develop goals, show them how to set goals. I show them how to set a personal, professional, and educational goal and weekly I hold them accountable to making progress on the objective of fulfilling those goals,” said Graham.
And now Ali, who graduated valedictorian from the program, is returning as a teacher to train others in the kitchen and, most importantly, in life.
“With those skills, if you are not able to be a better you, the skills are worthless, because you have to take those skills and apply them,” Ali said.
Ali credits the program, which recently received $100,000 from Walmart’s Fight Hunger, Spark Change program, with helping him change his life for the better.