As we wrap up 2020, Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC) is thankful for its relationship with Charlottesville’s Wegmans grocery store. Wegmans has been an important part of CATEC’s Culinary Arts program, with the company donating food and products for student use. It donates the meat proteins the store is unable to sell to the public, which allows students to have more opportunities to practice their developing skills. This includes thousands of dollars’ worth of meat that the program would not have been able to afford on its school budget. The program has been able to include the donated chicken, beef, and pork to its Poultry, Beef, and Pork units, as well as cater food for sale. Wegmans Food Markets’ Chris Depumpo says it is important for Wegmans to “connect with the community that we are going to serve.”
Wegmans also donated unique meat proteins that are not typically included in the Culinary Arts program curriculum. Donations include dry-aged steak, boar steaks, boar chops, quail, and Japanese waygu beef. Students and staff have cooked the proteins and done tastings, allowing students the opportunity to try new things. Arts Program Executive Chef Christina Rizzo says, “For students to be able to see, taste, and cook meats they otherwise would not have been exposed to, was a real gift.”
Once in-person learning resumes at CATEC in January 2021, Wegmans wants to send their staff to CATEC to perform live cooking demonstrations for Culinary Arts students. For example, Wegmans staff can teach students how to butcher meats. Depumpo says, “Culinary is a great match for us, from speaking about career opportunities to Culinary demonstrations. While at the demonstrations, we met with the team and asked them what they needed and how we could help. That's how we got to product pickup and packaging.”
In addition to proteins, Wegmans has offered the Culinary Arts program buffet containers (also known as clamshells) to use for transporting food. Because of COVD-19 safety protocols, Wegman’s buffets are currently closed. Rather than let the products go to waste, it donated nine cases of clamshells and reusable shopping bags to the program. The program has been able to distribute groceries and cooking items to students for cooking at home. Chef Rizzo says of the program’s relationship with Wegmans, “They have been so wonderful to us. We thank them for all of their support and look forward to this partnership for years to come.” Depumpo adds, “This helps support our community and also keeps perfectly fine product out of landfills, while providing education experiences for the students; not to mention, Mother earth benefits.”
The Culinary Arts program has been able to pay Wegman’s generosity forward by helping families in need due to COVID-19. When school shut down in March, the program donated meat to CATEC families that needed additional support. This Thanksgiving, Wegmans donated six turkeys to the program. The program was able to give these turkeys to members of the CATEC community.
With roots going back to their family-owned grocery story in 1916, the Wegman family has grown their business into a regional supermarket chain with 104 stores in seven states. The 120,000 Charlottesville store opened in 2016 at 5th Street Station.
CATEC is a regional technical education center that helps high school students and adults obtain the jobs they seek. Students have opportunities to practice hands-on and work-based learning activities alongside academically-driven curricula. CATEC prides itself on its built-in value, equity-based programs, and contribution to students' learning journeys.