By Mary Elizabeth Dial
The Beautiful Rainbow Catering Company and Garden hosted local leaders
for lunch on June 16 at Litchfield Middle School. The caterers, young
men with special needs from the Gadsden area, partnered with King’s
Olive Oil to provide foods such as salad, focaccia and even orange and
olive oil cake.
State Representative Craig Ford and Etowah County Probate Judge Bobby
Junkins were among those in attendance at the luncheon. In addition to
enjoying the food, both men expressed pride in the program and the
community it serves.
“I want to say thank you to the educators,” said Ford, focusing on the
men and women around the room who had helped the students put on the
Junkins agreed, saying about the teachers who helped students around
the room, “Who has more impact on a person’s life? Programs like
[Beautiful Rainbow]… are the things that make us better.”
Even more glowing was the praise left unsaid, as Ford, Junkins and
other attendees cleaned their plates.
Director of Special Education Sharon Maness is proud of the Beautiful
Rainbow program and all it has accomplished.
“The goal,” she said, “is to have them employed. We’re giving them job
skills that will be life skills… Some of these kids had behavior
issues,” but cooking has given them a new outlet for their energy and
Maness gives all the credit for this change to Chip Rowan, who teaches
the classroom portion of the Beautiful Rainbow and serves as mentor to
the young men enrolled in the program.
“We’re doing this as a way to instill pride and self-esteem,” said
Rowan. The skills he teaches are “therapeutic and vocationally
valuable,” and no one knows this better than his students. When asked
about his goals for the future, student Erik Bennett replied
enthusiastically that he wants to be a “master chef.”
Bennett and his classmates are well on their way, thanks to the skills
they have gained from the Beautiful Rainbow program. Students learn to
read and follow recipes, purchase and measure ingredients, plant and
maintain crops and practice kitchen hygiene, among other skills that
will help them thrive in a culinary workplace.
Beautiful Rainbow is now in its second year. After a one-year grant
from the Alabama State Department of Education gave the program its
start, Beautiful Rainbow began collecting funds from the Gadsden City
Board of Education and partnering with local businesses, including
King’s Olive Oil and Back Forty Brewery. When the company finds itself
wanting for funds, it raises them through sales of homemade items like
ice cream and truffles. It also brings its farm-to-table food and
catering skills to events in the Gadsden and Birmingham areas.
Visit the Beautiful Rainbow Catering Company and Garden on Facebook to
learn more, and follow the company on Instagram @beautiful_rainbo.