How can you tackle recidivism and serve your community at the same time? Civil Society Fellow Matthew Fieldman and the team at EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute is leading the way. Based in Cleveland, Ohio, EDWINS is ensuring their work bettering the futures of previously incarcerated individuals would not end due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but instead pivoted their model to meet the needs of their community. We spoke with Matt about the EDWINS model, what it took to pivot, and advice for others looking to serve their communities.
The original problem we were trying to solve was recidivism – which in America – is anywhere between 40-60%. That 40 to 60% of people coming out of prison will end up back in prison within three years. The number one need for people coming out of prison as a job. Jobs provide an income and they also provide a reason to live – a purpose. Meanwhile, the restaurant industry is always looking for quality. people who want to work hard. There were cafeterias and catering operations, but no one had [made this type of connection] in fine dining. Our founder Brandon Edwin Chrostowski’s background is in fine dining, so [we] came to the idea of starting a nonprofit made as an educational Institute – a school for culinary training.
Our goal is nothing less than to reshape the face of reentry, reshape how America looks at people coming out of prison. Help people see them as raw potential for the future, not look back at their past and judge them based on the mistakes that they’ve made.
The restaurant and service industry have obviously been hit hard by the pandemic. How were you able to keep EDWINS students working while many restaurants have been forced to close?
Like all restaurants, EDWINS was forced to make difficult choices in light of COVID-19, but we never wavered our commitment to community. Rather than closing up completely, EDWINS pivoted, shifting focus from fine-dining to offering family-style meals for four people for $40. This deal allows us to feed Cleveland and expand beyond our typical diners. We have even hired 12 new people over the last few weeks to keep up with the increased demand.
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