While the food truck season slowly comes to a close due to cooler weather, The Helping Hen hopes to continue its rotisserie with a mission to further provide employment opportunities for its justice-involved individuals or those previously experiencing homelessness.
The Helping Hen food truck is an extension of Work Options for Women (WOW) — a 501c nonprofit organization in Denver. Santander Consumer USA Foundation provided a grant to WOW making this truck possible.WOW offers a six-week core program providing culinary job training backed by the American Culinary Federation. The program not only gives these individuals culinary training but also helps them find housing, transportation and childcare to ensure job stability. Prior to starting The Helping Hen, the core program students would operate the Denver Human Services (DHS) cafeteria.
However, at the beginning of COVID-19, the DHS cafeteria closed limiting the program’s ability to work in a kitchen. This prompted the opportunity to produce emergency meals until the classroom was reopened in a mobile setting at the Second Chance Center in Aurora.
While each individual in the program is working to overcome significant barriers, The Helping Hen was created to provide real job experience that could fit on a resume. It acts as a stepping stone for future endeavors — whether it be entry level food positions or manufacturing.
Once the students complete the primary six-week program, they are eligible to start a paid internship working on the truck. Running this rotisserie chicken centered food truck offers customer service, cash handling and food preparation experience.
The truck’s menu includes homestyle chicken dishes from quarter rotisserie chicken plates with the choice of honey cornbread, tomato herb biscuit, macaroni and cheese, mashed sweet potatoes or confetti slaw. It also offers two different sandwiches — hot chicken and barbecue pulled chicken served open face on honey cornbread.
Because the individuals are paid interns, all proceeds go directly back to the program to continue all social enterprises.
WOW has created life-changing opportunities for people like Faith Lippie, Helping Hen intern. She has been in the program since June 2020 and graduated at the end of July 2020. It wasn’t until this opportunity with Helping Hen arose that Lippie decided to explore her passion for cooking.
“They helped me reestablish myself, get new clothes, an ID and transportation. It gave me a whole new trade and now I can say that I get paid to do something I love,” Lippie said.
Like many others, this program not only helped Lippie find a job, but it also opened doors she never knew existed.
“I have no idea where I would be without them. It helped me find a passion in culinary rather than just finding a job. I’d like to have a mobile bakery in the future, I love baking scones, cookies and apple pie,” Lippie said. Though the weather is making it less inviting to eat outside, Tessa Houston, culinary program and special projects manager for WOW hopes for prompted opportunities elsewhere.
“When other food trucks close or transition to catering for the winter we want to fill that gap with hearty homestyle meals. We’re hoping to find sponsors to host dinner giveaways in different areas of Denver with food deserts,” Houston said.
Stay updated with The Helping Hen food truck here.
All Photography by Samantha Hines