San Antonio, Texas
Objective: To provide valuable workforce knowledge to at-risk youth in a residential setting with hands-on learning experience.
In a Nutshell: The H.O.T. (Helping Our Teens) Salsa Project provides job training through three components: growing vegetables, producing and canning salsa, and marketing and retailing the goods in stores.
Where It Happens: Cyndi Taylor Krier Juvenile Correctional Treatment Center in San Antonio, and at other sites in Bexar County.
When It Began: January 1999. Fifty-five of the 96 residents of the facility volunteered to participate.
Who Started It: The treatment center’s special projects coordinator, Glenn Faulk, and Bexar County Extension Agent Rene Mosqueda. The idea was picked up from a Los Angeles-based program, “Food in the Hood,” in which youth produced and sold salad dressing after the 1992 riots.
Who Runs It: Faulk and Mosqueda, along with Bexar County 4-H Urban Outreach Director Mike Schockey.
Early Obstacles: Funding was the only early problem, as produce costs were compounded by $1,500 for initial kitchen and appliance expenditures.
How They Overcame Them: When the project was developed as a countywide 4-H program, foundation money started to come more easily.
Cost: There is no cost to participants. The annual operating budget for the treatment center’s program is about $3,500. With that, the teens produce about 300 cases of salsa.
Who Pays: Several foundations and charitable organizations, including the Amy McNutt Foundation, Pryor Charitable Trust, Frost Bank, Kocurek Charitable Foundation, Bank of America and the Kronkosky Foundation.
Who Else Kicked In: Amigos Canning Company provides expertise in commercialization of the salsa recipe and handles production of the salsa. Bexar County Master Gardeners donates transplants and seeds. San AntonioWater System provides compost for the garden site.
Youth Served: While the program targets low- income and at-risk youth, any youth in Bexar County 4-H can participate. On average, about 200 youth per year participate in the correctional facility program, with 200 more in other county centers.
Youth Turn-On: Fun hands-on learning experiences, particularly making the salsa.
Youth Turn-Off: Time commitment to classroom instruction.
What Still Gets in the Way: Because volunteers must be over 21, it has been difficult to maintain a group of 20 or so who can balance the needs of the program with job and family commitments.