IMPACT Eco-Health: Emerging Leaders in the Green Economy

On a brisk Saturday morning in February, nine Montgomery County community members gathered around conference tables at the IMPACT Silver Spring downtown office. They were there for a ServSafe Certified Food Protection Manager training, an opportunity offered as part of IMPACT’s Green Economic Workforce Development initiative. This initiative aims to enhance local residents’ access to health- and environmental-sector jobs and ability to launch small, eco-friendly businesses of the rapidly emerging Green Economy.

Gaining food manager certification offers a psychological boost in addition to a combo of economic advantages to local food business owners and employees. Individuals who receive certification are better able to instill confidence in their customers that they are eating from a safe and clean environment and therefore are recognized as being more competitive for potential employment opportunities. Businesses also have a reduced risk of receiving fines or closure due to health code violations when they employ one or more certified food managers. 

Several of the participants at Saturday’s training were already budding entrepreneurs, including graphic artist, vegan chef, and  kombucha-maker Ola Raphael. Ola spoke optimistically about what acquiring the certification could mean for him. “Ultimately, I’d like to rent commercial kitchen space,” he shared, “ but I need this certification to do that.”

IMPACT was able to cover the cost of the training for residents thanks to a generous individual donor. The 12-hour course was taught by Denise Rohl, a retired specialist from the Baltimore City Health Department. Denise is employed by ServRight Food and Alcohol Consulting, a Black, woman-owned business providing food safety consulting. Owner Melissa Perry shared that making the training accessible is important to her. “We bring our training to you. And, we’ve consolidated a 2-day training into a 1-day, 12-hour training to make it easier for busy people.”

A food manager certification is but one key that unlocks the door to many more economic opportunities identified by IMPACT’s GreenSpace team, a collective of community residents, green-professional contractors, and business owners who are committed to connecting underserved communities to the Green Economy via health, wellness, and environmental stewardship. The collective nurturing of our natural spaces can facilitate the growth of a healthy community, which is essential to long-term employment and business creation.  

“Some of the residents we work with have products they want to share with consumers and organizations. Having the food manager certification will allow that,” noted Kyree Clark, IMPACT’s Community Gardens Network Builder. “The certification will also allow residents to gain employment more easily in the food service industry and potentially sell products at local farmers markets or start an online business.”

At the conclusion of the training, participants sat for the certification exam which was administered online and immediately scored. Eight out of nine community members received their certification. Additional residents who were unable to take the course or did not pass will be able to retest at a later date. Perhaps East County Network Builder Eneshal Miller summed up the value of the food manager certification best when she commented, “[This Food Management Certification] will help with job security. It could lead to creating a second income. Simply put, it’s a healthy lifestyle pathway to earning more income.”

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