Next week, New York fast casual fresh&co. will begin selling holiday pies—namely cranberry-apple and pumpkin pie—at its 14 locations around Manhattan. What makes these sweets special isn’t so much their seasonality as their origins.

Last month, fresh&co. began a new partnership with the Food and Finance High School in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. The brand donated $40,000, one-fourth of which will provide a collegiate scholarship to the graduating valedictorian. In addition to this financial support, fresh&co. has also begun buying foods prepared by the students and then selling them in-store. In addition to the holiday pies, student-created Hell’s Kitchen’s Kale Pesto and Hell’s Kitchen Granola will also roll out to fresh&co. later this month.

“It was twofold: the philanthropic stage as well as helping out the students. It keeps the students busy; they can keep producing these food items and it creates a great circulation where we’re buying these items from the school and then we’re reselling them inside our stores,” says fresh&co. cofounder and CEO George Tenedios. “Within a couple blocks, they could stumble on a fresh&co., and I think it contributes to the students being proud to seeing their items … being sold to hundreds of people.”

Tenedios adds that when the company first came across the Food and Finance High School, he knew it was one of a kind. He adds that what the school teaches represents everything the brand stands for.

“I think it contributes to the students being proud to seeing their items … being sold to hundreds of people.”

Founded in 2004, The Food and Finance High School is truly unique with a reported 85 to 90 percent of graduates going on to seek higher education, often at culinary college. The school’s partner, Cornell University, also runs hydroponic, aquaculture, and aquaponics labs within the building. In addition to learning about sustainable practices through these labs, students will soon have access to farming tasks. In the spring, the school is slated to build a rooftop greenhouse with microgreens, basil, romaine, and more, Tenedios says.

For fresh&co. it was important to not only support a local establishment, but to also reinvest in the next generation of culinary leaders. Before the donation and partnership, fresh&co. began an internship program last summer. Tenedios hopes to begin hosting special events and talks at the school and continue the internship program—he jokes that they didn’t manage to scare away any interns last year.

“Because it is a high school, a lot of the students are as young as freshmen in the high school program so at a young age they’re learning their passion for culinary, they’re growing a greater passion for the culinary industry, and I believe it will contribute to a lot more careers in the future,” Tenedios says.

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