FareStart is a culinary job training and placement program for homeless and disadvantaged individuals. FareStart's services target some of our community's highest-risk and hardest-to-serve residents. All are homeless or at risk of homelessness; most face challenges such as addiction, mental illness, and domestic violence; and, many have been incarcerated—though all share the goal of creating a better life.

Since 1992, FareStart has provided opportunities for more than 7,000 people to rebuild their lives, while also serving nearly seven million meals to disadvantaged men, women, and children.

Mission Statement
FareStart provides a community that transforms lives by empowering homeless and disadvantaged men, women, and families to achieve self-sufficiency through life skills, job training and employment in the food service industry.
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700 Virginia St 
(206) 443-1233 

Megan Karch 
Chief Executive Officer 


FareStart Programs

FareStart's Adult Training Program works to build a strong foundation and support system for every student who passes through our doors. The intensive 16-week program combines hands-on food-service training with classroom instruction, life skills training, individual case management and job placement services.

The Adult Training Program prepares homeless and disadvantaged men and women for jobs in the restaurant and hospitality industry and, through our graduate support services, helps them to keep those jobs and move toward self-sufficiency by assisting them in securing living wage jobs and permanent housing. Support and services for our adult students last for approximately one year, and graduates are welcome to return for continued job retention and housing services indefinitely. 

In the first phase of their training, FareStart’s adult students work in the contract meal program, producing more than 700,000 meals each year, most of which are delivered to area shelters and low-income day care centers throughout the community.

The Barista Training & Education Program was launched in 2003 and is a collaborative effort with YouthCare, providing at-risk youth, ages 16-23, with the opportunity to build a better future for themselves by increasing their ability to develop a supportive community, reconnect with family, and pursue educational or employment goals. This eight-week program provides job training and placement assistance, life skills classes, employment counseling, and both classroom and on-the-job training.

FareStart’s third program, Catalyst Kitchens, is a nationwide network of food-service social enterprise organizations. Since 2006, Catalyst Kitchens has worked to launch, strengthen and scale food-service social enterprises that provide job and life skills training for individuals facing significant barriers to employment. Comprehensive programs like FareStart that tackle joblessness, poverty and hunger at the local level exist, but more are needed in communities across the country, and those that already exist can increase their impact by being part of a collaborative network of peers.

As of April 2015, the Catalyst Kitchens network has 68 member programs that provide job training to individuals with barriers to employment across the U.S., Canada, and United Kingdom. Catalyst Kitchens is enabling FareStart to exponentially leverage our impact on a national level.

Recent Successes and Current Challenges

FareStart is proud to report outstanding job placement and retention numbers for graduates of our adult program in 2014. Overall, job placement was 90% within 90 days of graduation. With a population that must overcome some very steep barriers to employment—such as mental illness, addiction, and history of severe trauma as well as lack of housing and re-entry from incarceration—we are especially proud to have stepped up to successfully address their needs, with access to mental health services and other types of counseling.

This year, we project that FareStart will serve 700,000 nutritious meals to school children and homeless adults, and that we will be well-positioned to meet or exceed 2014 student program outcomes, and in 2015, achieve the following: - 900 applicants will receive intake and referral services
  • 375 students will enroll in our job training programs
  • 200 students will graduate from our job training programs
  • 90% graduate job placement
  • 88% job retention
Additionally, we see an opportunity to ensure our student population better reflects the face of homelessness and poverty today by bringing additional focus to these areas:Youth: Over the course of the year, approximately 5,000–10,000 youth will experience homelessness in King County. Currently, FareStart is only able to serve one percent of these youth each year.

Women: Women, especially moms with young children, face limited shelter and transitional housing availability and lack of childcare funding.

Adults Recently Released from Incarceration: Nearly 70 percent of FareStart students have history with the criminal justice system, yet only about five percent of FareStart students in 2013 entered the program directly following their incarceration.

Housed, but living in poverty: The perception that FareStart is a “homeless” program deters many who are housed, but living in poverty from enrolling in the training program.

Donations to FareStart this year will go directly to helping us expand the training capacity of our programs and services to more individuals who want the opportunity to change their lives and to increasing our focus on underserved populations. Your investment in FareStart not only transforms lives, it starts a ripple that creates a wave of positive social impact in our community!


FareStart provides hands-on training and economic opportunities to homeless and low income people. Students are given access to a marketable job skill regardless of their past educational achievement. Graduates have an opportunity to move from a situation of homelessness and poverty to one in which they have employment, the potential for career advancement, and opportunities to access permanent housing. This training approach is strengthened by individualized case management, job search support, transportation and transitional housing support, and milestone incentives to help ensure completion.

Proven Success
FareStart has a strong track record in the community and their outcomes continue to improve. Over the last three years FareStart has individually consulted and referred nearly 2,000 individuals looking for a pathway out of homelessness. Since the end of 2009, graduate job placement rates have risen over 25%. FareStart ended 2010 with a graduate job placement rate of 82%. Nearly 80% of those graduates were still employed after three months.

Best Practices
FareStart’s model is nationally recognized. They have partnered with organizations around the country to disseminate their knowledge and have help launch twenty five similar programs. FareStart acts as the hub for Catalyst Kitchens, a national collaborative where organizations share strategies and best practices. Through this collaborative, FareStart is able to refining their programming through learning from others as well as share their nearly two decades of experience.

FareStart serves a diverse population of homeless and disadvantaged men, women, and youth in need of training and assistance to achieve basic stability and enter the job market. FareStart’s services helps students address the multiple barriers they face to employment including: criminal history, substance addiction, mental illness, domestic violence and limited education. Working with a difficult to serve population makes retaining students and helping them toward successful graduation and employment extremely complex. FareStart does not pre-qualify students and has staff in place dedicated to addressing and removing these barriers.

FareStart has created a strong network of partnerships to meet the needs of their students. These partners include: shelter and housing providers, social services agencies, healthcare providers, youth development organizations, and food services organizations.

Grant History with The Seattle Foundation:

Grants Awarded through The Seattle Foundation Grantmaking Program:

12/5/2014 $6,250.00to support general operating expenses.
9/10/2011 $40,000.00support general operating expenses.
12/10/2008 $45,000.00support general operating expenses.
12/14/2006 $30,000.00support general operating expenses.


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