Culinary Arts students graduate and a new class begins

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - It's been just a week since the Community Solutions Center in Roanoke graduated its first class of culinary arts students, but a new class is already getting started, and the class size growing.

"It makes you want to do a dance, shimmy, shimmy shimmy," Shaqueena Snyder said after watching others try her vegan hummus dish.

Cooking for others makes her light up, and she gets to do this everyday at her own business--Queen's Vegan Cafe.

"I noticed that there was a lack of, you know, vegan services here in Roanoke, and I wanted to provide that gap," Snyder said.

But it was the 12 week culinary arts class with Feeding America Southwest Virginia that really spiced up her business.

"It helped give me more structure and a foundation. . . I have new contacts, I have been networking," she said.

She sells her products at farmers markets but is working on opening her own shop. Seven new students are hoping to get jobs in the food industry and be successful like Snyder.

Constance Smith, one of the new students, said, "I just like, you know, the taste of food. I like to see people happy with food, and a lot of people when they eat it, there's just smiles on their faces, so I like doing that."

And that seems to be the common message Feeding America wants to spread.

"They've got the drive and the passion to learn and make a change in their lives and change the lives of others through some of the hands-on training that they're doing here," Amanda Allen, Marketing Coordinator for Feeding America Southwest Virginia, said.

All of the students are sponsored so they can focus on what they like doing best: making people smile.