CINCINNATI — BLOC Ministries Teaching Kitchen, an eight-week program for aspiring chefs who have dropped out of high school or other career fields, got a $100,000 check from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine last week.
It’s one of Ohio’s largest single payments through the Federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program.
Parts of the sum will pay chefs like Stephanie Miller — “Chef Steph,” who has 20 years of experience in the industry — to help her students learn culinary skills that will support them throughout the rest of their lives.
And despite the program’s mission focusing on adults, many of those students are children.
“They have the passion to cook,” Miller said. “They just don't have the skills. So to be able to provide them with the skills, it's not only helping them at home, but also encouraging them to do other things beyond home.”
Miller and other BLOC Ministries leaders, including director of operations Chris Staser, hope their program will help transform the lives of people in Lower Price Hill. Average life expectancy here is five years less than in Mount Adams, and life can be hard.
“We know there is a generational cycle of losing hope here,” Staser said. “And when you lose that, there’s often a lot of things that come with that. Any time a kid can have a relationship, someone speaking hope, identity, truth into them, we know that means something. It could mean education. It could mean a job.”
For 11-year-old Cemiya Criffin, sessions with Chef Steph mean a step toward her own dream.
“I want to own my own business,” she said. When she cooks, “it makes me feel great because they like my food.”
With the new money allocated by DeWine, BLOC Ministries is talking about expanding programs in Lower Price Hill even further. They believe investing in people will change their neighborhood for the better.