Orange Coast College hosts an innovative food production class in the school’s College Center Dining area, which is designed to teach students to cook food in bulk for Pirates’ Cove, staff meals and family meals. Amy Wilson is the lead instructor and supervisor for the OCC Recovery Kitchen, quality, food production and management courses. 

The food production class and the Pirates’ Cove are separate entities. The Pirates’ Cove is a pantry for students to grab groceries and meals made by the food production class. The class partners with the Pirate’s Cove to provide meals  because the Cove doesn’t have access to a kitchen.  

“This is like any other lab class, except this is an advanced lab class,” Wilson said. “We got nutrition and dietetics students, hotel and hospitality students.”

The class hosts events such as making family and staff meals to reduce food waste and to teach the culinary students to manage a budget and resources. 

“We operate like a soup kitchen,” said Wilson. “We take a lot of their [Pirates’ Cove’s] ingredients that students can just grab and a lot of them don’t know what to do with that stuff because a lot of them don’t know how to cook. They might not have time to cook a meal for themselves.” 

According to Eric Cohen, the instructor for the food production class, the Pirates’ Cove did not offer meals initially, so for the past few years the culinary class has partnered with them to deliver meals for students who don’t have access to a kitchen or have the skills to cook. 

OCC Culinary Arts major Alex Larios describes the food production class like being in the army with everyone following orders of the managers and sous chefs with recipes being developed every week.

“We do recovery, which is food waste that would go away either way and we cook it for needy people, some families and students,” Larios said. 

Food Production - food

Bulk batches of food cooked for the day and donated by the food bank on March 8.

According to Chef Wilson, one of the purposes of providing food for students is so that those who are food insecure have options on campus to have a nourishing meal. 

“The need for food and food insecurity here on campus is at least one in six,” Wilson said. “One in four students is food insecure. [That] doesn’t mean that they’re homeless, just means that they don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have any money, it could just be that they are so busy with school and stuff they might have to eat ramen noodles, which is quick but not nourishing. So that’s what we try to aim to do, we help try to alleviate the stress here on campus from life.”

The Community College League of California reported more than two-thirds of California Community College students face at least one basic needs insecurity.  

“It [the menu] depends on what we get donated,” OCC student Saskia Sikking said. “They make it up the day before and we get the email saying what we’re making and then we come in and make that.” 

The food production program is partnered with OC Food Bank, Second Harvest Food Bank, Mother’s Market Kitchen and Abound Food Care. 

Eric Cohen is the full time chef instructor in the food and beverage management program. 

“We have this class split up into two sections, one part is about managing employees, so we have students take turns managing the kitchens where they have to write the recipes for the class,” Cohen said. “On the other side we have the recovery kitchen, where we get food either donated and that we process into meals for Pirate’s Cove.” 

The class is looking to expand in an effort to get more opportunities for the culinary students to work on bigger projects.