The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) announced gifts totaling more than $500,000 from Buffalo Wild Wings Inc. and Sodexo Inc. to support the NRAEF’s mission to enhance the restaurant industry’s service to the public through education, community engagement, and promotion of career opportunities.

Buffalo Wild Wings donated an additional $385,000 to support the NRAEF’s operations and establish the Buffalo Wild Wings Scholarship Fund, awarded to students pursuing degrees in culinary arts, food science, or foodservice management. Each year, Buffalo Wild Wings and the NRAEF will select two students attending four-year colleges or universities and four students attending two-year colleges or universities to receive scholarships.

Additionally, Sodexo Inc. donated $125,000 in support of the NRAEF’s nationwide career technical education program, ProStart. A portion of the funds will be used to create a dynamic network among current and past ProStart students, educators, leading foodservice operators, suppliers, and members of the public.

“Through the generous contributions provided by Buffalo Wild Wings and Sodexo, the NRAEF can continue to grow the ProStart program across the U.S. and work to further our goal of attracting, developing, and retaining a career-oriented professional workforce for the restaurant industry,” says Katherine Schieffelin, senior vice president and chief development officer, National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “We applaud their commitment to ensuring a strong future for the industry and thank them for their continued support.”

“Buffalo Wild Wings is dedicated to sharing our passion for developing talent, and we’re pleased to support the NRAEF’s efforts to equip students with the skills necessary to achieve rewarding and successful careers in the restaurant industry,” says Sally Smith, chief executive officer and president, Buffalo Wild Wings. “As a restaurant concept with more than 1,060 locations worldwide, we understand the importance of providing long-term career opportunities and training and retaining a strong workforce. We’re confident the Buffalo Wild Wings Scholarship Fund will help create future leaders in the industry.”

“Sodexo has been a strong supporter of the NRAEF and its programs, such as ProStart, for years. As a company committed to playing an active role in local community development, we value the work ProStart educators do to prepare students for fulfilling careers,” says Lorna Donatone, chief operating officer for Sodexo North America, president for Sodexo Education and treasurer for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “There are thousands of current and former ProStart students scattered across the country and we can make the program—and their communities—so much stronger if we form these connections. We’re proud to support such a worthwhile endeavor.”

ProStart is a nationwide career technical education program where high-school students learn from an industry-derived, competency-based curriculum that teaches culinary techniques and restaurant management skills, coupled with real-life restaurant sector experiences. Upon completion of the program, ProStart students receive the industry-recognized ProStart National Certificate of Achievement. To earn the certificate, students must pass two national exams, demonstrate foundational skills and document 400 hours of industry-related work experience. Students who receive the certificate are eligible for NRAEF scholarship opportunities and course credits at more than 60 of the nation’s leading hospitality and culinary arts colleges and universities.

Total restaurant and foodservice employment is projected to grow by 11 percent over the next 10 years and the NRAEF is committed to ensuring the development of a highly trained and professional talent pool through scholarships and educational programs such as ProStart. With national and local support from industry members, educators, the NRAEF, and state restaurant associations, ProStart is taught in to students across 49 states, Guam, and on Department of Defense military bases.

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