By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current
The Culinary Arts Program at Missoula College received a welcome boost on Tuesday with a notable pledge by a family known for its support of child welfare, environmental and education programs.
Offered by the Rapier Family Foundation, the $200,000 gift will help equip the program’s new production kitchen at the equally new Missoula College, which is set to open this fall. It will also help put food on the shelves of the Missoula Food Bank.
“The Rapier Family Foundation’s gift will help our award-winning program grow even stronger, allowing our students to learn the full range of culinary arts skills to prepare them for jobs in the industry,” said Shannon O’Brien, dean of Missoula College.
Over the past 50 years, Missoula College has carved a niche in the local education sector by training the region’s workforce for the day’s hottest jobs. Roughly 95 percent of students who graduate from food service management have found jobs after completing the program.
Students enrolled in the program learn food processing and manufacturing with the latest restaurant-grade equipment and tools.
Aaron Brock, executive director of Missoula Food Bank, said a portion of the food that’s canned, dried and frozen in the Missoula College production kitchen will stock the shelves at Missoula Food Bank.
“The partnership with the Culinary Arts Program holds a great deal of promise for our food bank,” said Brock. “More high-quality, nutritious food to stock our shelves will help us meet the growing need for food assistance in our neighborhoods, and create a stronger relationship between our food bank and Missoula College.”
The food bank feeds one in six Missoula County residents, Brock said.
Founded by George Rapier III and his wife, Kym, the Rapier Family Foundation supports child welfare, human services, environmental and education organizations in several locations nationwide, including Montana. The foundation is based in Texas.
The $200,000 pledge was their first to Missoula College.
“When a current culinary arts student who is passionate about cooking and helping others asked my husband, George, and me to donate to the training kitchen, we were excited,” said Kym Rapier. “We are pleased that our contribution will expand the culinary facility and make curricular connections to the Missoula Food Bank, promoting a mission to help the food insecure.”