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And they work, advancing from the basement kitchen, where they prepare the meals sent to shelters, to the kitchen of FareStart’s elegant on-site restaurant, which is open for lunch on weekdays and which plows its proceeds back into FareStart’s budget. A little more than one-third of its revenue last year - $2.5 million - came from food sales, and more than half from private donations. Government grants made up much of the rest.

After graduating, students get three months of job-placement help and an additional six months of follow-up services to make sure they’re doing well in their new jobs. About 80 percent of graduates get - and keep - jobs in the food industry, said Megan Karch, FareStart’s executive director.

FareStart also has a catering business and a program for teaching young people to work as baristas.

“I see success stories, thankfully, every single week,” Ms. Karch said. “Many of the individuals walking through our door tell me they feel broken: Things have fallen apart. They’ve lost their families. They’ve lost housing. They’ve lost everything that has ever meant something to them.

“I don’t mean to imply that people can really change their lives in four months of being here. But what you do start to see is that at the end of the program, they stand up straighter. They’re confident. They feel empowered. They feel like they mean something to themselves and to others.”

One of the highlights of the program, Ms. Karch says, comes each Thursday night, when the students work with one of the region’s top chefs to prepare a $25 fixed-price dinner, served by volunteers. Mr. Caswell, of emmer&rye, showed up on a recent Thursday afternoon with tomatoes, arugula, pork, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, squash, potatoes and peas - nearly all the produce donated by area farms.

“I give to other charities too, but you rarely see the effect of that,” Mr. Caswell said as he shook curtains of salt into a vat of boiling potatoes. “Here, I’ve seen the impact it has on people’s lives. I’ll see these guys after they graduate. I’ll hire them when I see this on their resume.”