JobTrain culinary arts students bake thousands of cookies for county inmates


Over six days of heavily floured aprons and dough rolling, students of the JobTrain Culinary Arts program baked 6,551 cookies, which will be given to approximately 600 inmates at San Mateo County jails on Christmas Day.

This is the sixth year in a row that the JobTrain students have baked holiday cookies for inmates, said the program's chef instructor, Adam Weiner.

The Service League of San Mateo County, a nonprofit that serves inmates at San Mateo County jails, first presented him and his students with the challenge of baking enough cookies for each inmate to receive 10 cookies. That first year, the culinary arts students baked 7,000 cookies, and each year since, the students have continued the epic baking tradition.

Mr. Weiner said he likes the project for two reasons.

First, he's able to use the challenge to teach mass-production cooking skills to his students. The task isn't so out of the ordinary for chefs who work at hospitals, hotels or big tech companies, which are the kinds of jobs he's training his culinary students for. "They need to learn to make thousands of cookies at a time," he said.

Second, he said, "It shows people that no matter where you are in your life, you can help someone else."

Those cookies, it turns out, have been a sugar-coated lifeline to the outside world. The only holiday gifts inmates are allowed to receive are baked goods from an approved source, Mr. Weiner said.

Mr. Weiner said that many of his students in the culinary arts program are formerly incarcerated, or are participating on a work furlough, an alternative sentencing program for people considered low-risk, minimum-security offenders, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office website.

Now, he said, people who once received JobTrain's holiday cookies in jail are baking them for current inmates.

Dafne, who is on work furlough from jail, added: "Lots of people are forgotten while incarcerated. The inmates will appreciate those who took the time to bake for them."

JobTrain reports that former inmates who complete one of its programs have a recidivism rate of only 27 percent compared to the San Mateo County average of about 65 percent.

In all, the team of bakers made 667 snickerdoodles, 338 pumpkin cookies, 549 peanut butter blossoms, 399 ginger snaps, 758 lemon macaroons, 394 Hungarian pecan or walnut cookies, 904 thumb prints and 1,381 double chocolate chip cookies.

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