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Arizona State Prison – Marana’s Culinary Class Helps Residents Become More Employable

The Arizona State Prison-Marana facility recently added a new program: a culinary class that teaches residents all about food safety, serving the public, and cooking basics.

Hunter Westberg, who has worked at the facility for a couple of years as a program specialist, is the culinary class instructor. Today, she is teaching the men about the several locations of taste buds and the various purposes they serve. It’s a pretty comprehensive course.

“Upon release, [the residents] will have their food handler’s card,” explains Hunter. “To a restaurant manager, that tells them that they know how to keep food safe, that they’re not going to make anyone sick with food, that they know all the cleaning procedures that they should take care of. So, as a manager, that’s going to make me want to hire someone a lot more than someone that maybe doesn’t have that certification.”

Marana Culinary Class Still
Culinary students.

Warden Jeremy Casey agrees.

“It teaches them food handling, OSHA standards, and sanitation standards so that they can get hired in hospitality, hotels, or fast-food restaurants or restaurants,” says Warden Casey. “It just makes them more employable.”

“Ms. Westberg went above and beyond to put this program together,” says resident student Troy Niles. “It feels like a step above to get your managerial food handler’s card and take care of things on the ‘outs’ when I get up, so I got a stepping stool, tools that I can use when I get out.”

“[Ms. Westberg] is amazing,” says Warden Casey. “She’s very passionate about delivering the things that she does. I think a lot of the residents enjoy it, too, because she brings a lot of enthusiasm to the programming, as well.”

“She makes sure that we know the material,” adds Troy. “We go over and over it again. Big thanks to everybody that put this together, all the time that it took to get everything done. Special thanks to everybody that put their hand in it.”

Marana Culinary Class Still
Hunter Westberg, culinary instructor.

“My favorite part has honestly been being able to tell them, ‘You passed your test, you have a food handler’s card!’, and just seeing the look on their faces, like, ‘Oh my gosh, I accomplished this, thank you so much for helping me get my food handler’s card and getting me there, I never thought I would get there’,” Hunter explains. “That’s really rewarding to me.”