From working as a Project Manager at Proctor & Gamble to running Veena’s Market as a solopreneur, Veena Prasad has created a career out of challenging herself. Project Feast, emerged from an application for a grant created only two days before the deadline. The time constraint was no barrier to Project Feast; the idea quickly gained followers including Aparna Rae, Veena’s business partner who has over ten years of experience working with refugee communities in Chicago, Vancouver, and in Seattle. “Project Feast was born from an understanding of what a perfect ‘job’ looked like to me.” Veena said recently. “I missed working with others and realized that I wanted to do something that had a positive impact on society.” Veena’s desire to do something positive has paid off in a big way and Project Feast has established itself as a social-impact non-profit aiming to help immigrant and refugee cooks find sustainable employment in the food industry through relevant job training programs.
Project Feast caters meals for 20 to 200, providing training for refugees and immigrants, and offering cookingclasses. Large-scale events are a welcome challenge for Project Feast but their specialty lies in smaller events that foster greater connection with the trainees. Founder Veena Prasad says, “These events and interactions are really important, as part of our mission is to bridge the mainstream and refugee/immigrant cultures.”
Trainings at Project Feast cover topics ranging from catering and food safety to menu planning. The classes are a way for trainees to increase job readiness. After completion of the training program, participants can work with Project Feast and can also lead ethnic food cooking classes. Currently the offerings include a Burmese and Indian menu and will soon include a Middle Eastern selection.
The influence Project Feast has had on its participants is tangible as Veena explains, “Aparna and I met Annie P, through Mona Han at the Coalition of Refugees from Burma. The first time that we met Annie in February, she was extremely shy, communicating primarily through Mona who translated back and forth. During the following meetings and events, we arranged for a translator. Since our first meeting in February, we’ve watched Annie blossom. At a recent cooking demonstration, Annie was able to communicate without a translator and has enjoyed talking with customers about her life and family, living in the US, and her recipes. She told me she really enjoys speaking with people when she helps us with an event. I’m sure she also appreciates all the people stopping to tell her how much they liked the food!”
Veena credits a strong network of talented people in helping Project Feast expand connections into refugee communities and organizations around the Seattle area. The Project is looking to partner with more organizations serving immigrant and refugee groups and will offer training programs on site. With this support, Project Feast is sure to continue its growth as a unique, impactful non-profit here in the Northwest.
Register here for the Eco-Hour on June 13th with Project Feast and Office Nomads.