NECAT’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

NECAT suspended in-person classes on March 13th. At that time we had 68 students enrolled in our training programs and a network of more than 500 alumni. Many of these individuals were already living in crowded shelters, readjusting to life after incarceration or going through recovery. With state-imposed quarantine, many suddenly found themselves unemployed and isolated. Our team is providing a supportive lifeline for them.


We make sure they are safe.

Within days of our closure, each individual was called and checked in on. We complied lists of resources so that participants would know how and where to access services, including food distribution centers, temporary housing solutions, and online recovery support groups.

We help them find food and housing.

Coaching, support and access to resources has never been more critical for those we serve. Our case workers are utilizing every form of virtual communication to regularly check-in with both students and graduates. They are connecting our clients with food, housing, counseling and more – they are even personally delivering groceries to those unable to leave their houses.

We provide financial assistance.

We launched an emergency Student Fund so we can continue to provide critical services to our population, as well as financial assistance to those facing hardship. Many need the help while they wait for unemployment benefits to come through or until they can secure another job. We are hearing from most of our participants that they are using the funds to purchase food or pay rent.

We help them apply for unemployment benefits.

This has proved a complicated task as the system is so overwhelmed – it is impossible to reach someone on the phone and eligibility requirements are always changing. Our career services team is spending hours over the phone walking students step by step through the process. 

We connect them with partners who are hiring.

Our career services team continues to work individually with students to update their resumes and prepare them to enter the job market as soon as the restaurant industry recovers. For those able to work – or who don’t qualify for unemployment, we are connecting them with our employer partners in desperate need of essential workers – including Whole Foods, NewBridge on the Charles and Spaulding Rehab Hospital, supporting them through every step of the application and interview process.

We keep them engaged in learning.

Our chefs are building a library of culinary video demonstrations, online lessons and quizzes. One on-on-one tutoring sessions are being conducted via video chat, ensuring that everyone is keeping up with their lessons – and staying connected. We have even enlisted the help of some of our employer partners to create content – you can see Encore’s Executive Sous Chef, Russel Parker, breaking down a beef tenderloin in a demo here.

We’re making a difference in their lives

Thank you

NECAT is so grateful for the crisis response funding it has received from the following organizations:

  • The Boston Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund
  • RIZE Massachusetts Foundation
  • Rowland Foundation
  • Tableau Foundation

As well as the numerous individuals who have donated to NECAT’s Student Fund.