Staying Connected with Students in a Virtual World

April 15, 2020

The world is now online, whether we like it or not. As Catalyst Kitchens programs adapt to the digital world to practice safe social distancing, we’re seeking ways to continue to connect, learn, and move forward despite temporary closures.


About 80% of the nonprofits in our network have temporarily paused their culinary training programs in response to COVID-19. We’ve compiled an assortment of online resources to help members and clients keep growing together during these times, including instructional videos in culinary and hospitality, methodologies for providing social services digitally, and online learning platform recommendations.


The resources provided below are designed as a guide for programs that are experimenting with alternatives to in-person learning. While many programs are embracing virtual formats, we acknowledge that this does not mean equal access for all. Remote learning options are limited for students without access to technology and a home kitchen; many students living in shelters during this crisis will struggle to access a computer on a regular basis. For this reason, Catalyst Kitchens is committed to continually seeking opportunities that will help connect students to the technology they need and support innovative ways to connect despite distance.

Online Learning or Teaching Platforms

Here are some platform options to explore if your training program can offer online learning. To find the best fit for your program be sure to consider your students’ technology needs, learning goals, your budget, and privacy concerns.


Online Meeting Platforms:

With everything going online, Tech Radar offers a great overview of what is available with paid subscriptions and what is offered for free. Some top contenders for free software include:

Zoom: Doesn’t it feel like the whole world is on Zoom now? Note that the free version limits meetings to 40 minutes and that Zoom has recently been scrutinized for their privacy and security policies. Despite these concerns, this is an easy to use platform that allows for multiple screens and large meeting sizes.

Other free software includes Skype, Free Conference, and Google Hangouts.

Paid subscriptions include GoToMeeting, Blue Jeans, Zoom’s paid subscription and Google Hangouts Meet.

Read the Tech Radar article for full details and subscription prices.

For those programs considering more functionality than a simple online meeting platform, this article from My eLearning World outlines the benefits and drawbacks of three major platforms: Schoology, Edmodo, and Google Classroom.     


Transitioning to Remote Learning

Now you have a platform – what’s your game plan? Remote learning can be a challenge for many students. It’s common to shorten online sessions and increase individual work to accommodate for short attention spans in a digital format. Some best practices include consistent online communications through the course platform, establishing clear expectations for student work on a weekly basis, and utilizing different modalities through small groups, large groups, and individual learning experiences. This article from Designing for Learning gives excellent guidelines for keeping your students engaged and learning through remote learning platforms.

Support Services Guidance

Members continue to provide social services support through virtual meetings, phone calls, and even briefly in-person during supply pick-ups while practicing social distancing to make sure their clients have what they need through these challenging times. We’ve compiled some strategies from the network and resources to help you give your clients the care they need.


Providing Resources for Client Pick-Up

Whenever possible, avoid in person meetings to stop the further spread of the COVID-19 virus. However, with proper social distancing measures in place and personal protective equipment, clients may need to pick up supplies such as food, paper products, or even paperwork to help them make it through the coming months. In these cases, in-person pickups can serve as a great check in to see how clients are doing and offer any ongoing support needed.


Virtual Support

Virtual support is a great option to stay connected. This is particularly important for clients in addiction recovery or managing mental health issues. Social isolation can be extremely challenging and put clients at risk for a relapse or the potential to spiral into poor mental health. Staying connected in any way possible from video conferencing, phone calls, or direct messaging can serve as an important resource for clients in need. Our national partner Catholic Charities has developed a comprehensive outline for delivering social services in a remote capacity that can serve as a resource.


The harsh reality of our current situation is that social isolation and job loss puts many clients we serve at high risk for substance abuse, domestic violence, or potentially suicidal thoughts. Make sure your clients have a robust toolkit for these issues, including:

Suicide Risk and Prevention Toolkits from the American Association of Suicidology

A robust Domestic Violence and Abuse Prevention resources list from Futures Without Violence

Recovery/Substance Abuse Disorder resources from the National Institute on Drug Abuse


Theranest is an online therapy/counseling delivery portal that has mental health worksheets publicly available that can be useful in client management. These worksheets include relaxation techniques, anger management, anxiety management, counseling note-taking, and self-esteem assessments. These resources can support clients through the mental health challenges associated with isolation and the emotions that may arise through the challenges of the current situation.

Theranest mental health worksheets

Culinary Online Videos and Learning 

Culinary training doesn’t have to stop because we cannot conduct lessons in person. There are many online resources available for students interested in building their culinary skills while programs are temporarily paused. If fully transitioning to online training is beyond your program’s capacity, these resources can serve as enriching content in the meantime to keep students excited about the culinary field and building their skillsets.


Hospitality Training from the American Hotel and Lodging Association

This online program presents general hospitality knowledge and soft skills needed in the hospitality industry, along with concise instructions for training new or prospective employees. Current free online trainings include Supervisor Skills Building, Hospitality Manager: Leadership, and Hotel Administrator.

Access requirements: Requires a username and login to setup. Trainees must have an email address.

AHLA Hospitality Training Videos


Free Foodservice Certification Trainings from ServSafe

ServSafe has made some of their online trainings free and accessible to the public during COVID-19. These trainings include food handler, COVID-19 precaution training, and ServSuccess for Restaurant Professionals and Restaurant Supervisors.

Access Requirements: Requires a username and login to setup. Trainees must have an email address.

ServSafe Free certification trainings


American Culinary Federation

The ACF is a leader in the culinary industry and offers many culinary instructional videos online that are based on ACF teaching techniques. These include knife skills, protein fabrication, baking, and kitchen science. These videos offer high quality content for the topics covered, though they are relatively limited in scope.

Access Requirements: Does not require any login or email address.

ACF Culinary Instructional Videos


Jacques Pepin Foundation

Our generous partner the Jacques Pepin Foundation offers a free online video library that can be sorted by technique. These videos are geared towards an audience of home chefs and contain useful technical knowledge and instruction for those getting started in the culinary arts.

Access Requirements: Does not require any login or email address.

JPF Culinary Video Library



Rouxbe videos are geared towards a professional culinary audience and have a wide scope of techniques reviewed. However, these courses are accessible through paid subscription only. Online trainings include Professional Cook Certification, Plant-Based Professional Certification, Vegan Desserts, Culinary Rx, Seafood Literacy. Rouxbe is a great option for those further along in their training or those who are seeking advanced skills development.

Access requirement: Will require a username and login to setup, trainees must have an email address and electronic payment method, even for 30-day free trial.

Rouxbe Culinary Instructional Videos

Life Skills and Continued Education

Many of us have more time than we know what to do with right now. This is an ideal time to encourage students to pursue continued education and transferable skills that will better prepare them for the future. Below is a collection of resources for clients to pursue self-enrichment in a digital environment.


GED Courses

Have any of your state or community colleges moved GED classes online? For clients with this need, this could be a great way to better prepare for post COVID-19 employment.


ESL Courses

For clients learning English, this ESL directory points to great resources to support their learning.


Small Business Courses

A wonderful place to start for clients who aspire to own their own business someday through the Small Business Association.


Tech Fluency Courses

If this crisis has taught us anything, it is the importance of technical aptitude for both employment and personal reasons. This Computer Training course from Alison gives a comprehensive overview of computer basics. 


Financial Coaching

Increasing financial literacy and setting personal financial goals may also be a good use of downtime for students. Longtime network sponsor Bank of America has a good set of resources to get started through their Better Money Habits program, also featured at our regional summits.  


Other Learning and Self-Enrichment

Clients may wish to engage in other self-enrichment and learning online. Start creating a list of their interests and see what may match up and is freely available. Here is a starter list of free online learning platforms offering everything from literature courses to data engineering.



We hope this list can serve as a resource for nonprofits providing remote client support and to continue culinary education over distance. We know these are trying times and want to extend our hand of support to nonprofits seeking new ways to serve their clients. Sometimes necessity is the birth of innovation! We will be providing more resources regarding job readiness, culinary training, and remote support in the coming weeks and months as we all navigate this new normal.


Resources compiled by Natalie Evans, Outreach & Programs Coordinator, and Justin Smith, Program Development Manager. 

Blog Category: 

Community Engagement

Corinne Molz

Corinne brings experience to her role of Communications Coordinator from her background in event planning, international development undergraduate degree, and her passion for the foodservice job training social enterprise model. Her career goals are devoted to lifting others out of the cycle of poverty through economic empowerment through employment/workforce development. She previously served FareStart as a Catering Captain, Catalyst Kitchens as Program Associate, and currently manages all More