PepsiCo Partners With the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation to Invest in a Community Collaborative to Train Chicago Youth, Reentry Population for Restaurant Careers

May 22, 2019 6:15 PM ET
Representatives from the NRAEF, PepsiCo and community leaders in the city of Chicago celebrate the kickoff of a new community collaborative focused on training young people disconnected from the workforce and formerly incarcerated populations.

CHICAGO, May 22, 2019 /3BL Media/– PepsiCo and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) announced on Sunday a new community collaborative between local restaurants, nonprofits and its Restaurant Ready program to train young people disconnected from the workforce and formerly incarcerated populations in work-readiness skills to prepare them for careers in restaurants and foodservice.

“The community collaborative presents an incredible opportunity to grow the work of the Foundation to serve the local community in Chicago,” said Gifford, Executive Vice President of the NRAEF. “We are ecstatic to bring together these local partners that already effectively train and employ young people who are not currently working and previously incarcerated individuals looking to reenter the workforce.”

The joint initiative looks to bridge the gap between community organizations and restaurant employers to connect career opportunities to the individuals who need it most, leveraging restaurants and foodservice companies as a first-step to employment – and ultimately, serve as a national model to bolster workforce efforts across the country.

“We’re deeply committed to empowering our associates and the communities we serve,” said Merary Simeon, Vice President of Diversity and Engagement, PepsiCo. “Joining forces across nonprofit, public and private sectors is a phenomenal way to drive real change for young people who can thrive in our communities when given the right support.”

“One of the biggest challenges facing Cook County and in particular Chicago is employing underrepresented young adults. Every young adult on every block in the region should be equipped and trained to secure a job where they are earning livable wages. Collaborations between the community, businesses and government are essential to addressing this problem. I am proud that the National Restaurant Association is partnering with the Safer Foundation and PepsiCo to launch the Restaurant Ready program in Chicago that puts young adults on the track to get jobs in the restaurant industry and on the path to independence,” stated Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore (D-4). 

With PepsiCo’s funding, the NRAEF will unite the key organizations which serve as experts in successfully training both populations in Chicago, including:

  • The Hatchery, a Chicago non-profit food and beverage business incubator that enables local entrepreneurs to build and grow successful businesses, which create economic growth and new job opportunities;

  • The Safer Foundation, one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit providers of services designed exclusively for people with criminal records;

  • Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (IRAEF), a nonprofit dedicated to building Illinois' hospitality workforce and will identify key employers and connections to industry for disconnected youth and previously incarcerated individuals;

The program will officially begin June 1.

This partnership is another illustration of PepsiCo’s continued commitment to address local workforce needs in the City of Chicago. Last year, PepsiCo partnered with the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) to create career paths for students in manufacturing, and transportation, distribution and logistics (TDL) by providing employment in specialized positions at PepsiCo. Since the launch in March 2018, hiring events have resulted in 36 students being hired for frontline roles including drivers, warehouse helpers, and merchandisers; 14 PepsiCo scholarships were awarded to students at Olive Harvey College who are studying TDL, and students at CCC’s Daley College who are studying Advanced Manufacturing Maintenance; and PepsiCo Beverages North America will host 2 CCC students for a 10-week paid internship to gain meaningful work experience with the Integrated Supply Chain team.  

About PepsiCo

PepsiCo products are enjoyed by consumers more than one billion times a day in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. PepsiCo generated more than $64 billion in net revenue in 2018, driven by a complementary food and beverage portfolio that includes Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola, Quaker and Tropicana. PepsiCo's product portfolio includes a wide range of enjoyable foods and beverages, including 22 brands that generate more than $1 billion each in estimated annual retail sales.

Guiding PepsiCo is our vision to Be the Global Leader in Convenient Foods and Beverages by Winning with Purpose. “Winning with Purpose” reflects our ambition to win sustainably in the marketplace and embed purpose into all aspects of the business.  For more information, visit

About the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation

As the philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation is dedicated to enhancing the industry’s training and education, career development and community engagement efforts. The NRAEF and its programs work to Attract, Empower and Advance today’s and tomorrow’s restaurant and foodservice workforce. NRAEF programs include:  ProStart® – a high-school career and technical education program; Restaurant Ready – partnering with community based organizations to provide “opportunity youth” with skills training and job opportunities; Military – helping military servicemen and women transition their skills to restaurant and foodservice careers; Scholarships – financial assistance for students pursuing restaurant, foodservice and hospitality degrees; and, the Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship Project – a partnership with the American Hotel & Lodging Association providing a  hospitality apprenticeship program for the industry.

Visit to learn how to get involved with the NRAEF and its work to build pathways to meaningful jobs and careers in restaurants and.

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Jessica Mckenzie