A local culinary training program received a hearty endorsement Aug. 28 from Congressman Chris Murphy (D-5th).

The congressman paid a visit that day to the Community Culinary School of Northwest Connecticut on the occasion of its seventh graduation.

The New Milford program equips unemployed and underemployed adults with skills to find jobs in the food industry.

The school operates four, 12-week sessions a year, each for as many as 10 men and women aged 18 or older.

"I am very eager to push for as much help as I can find for this program, because it is very clearly changing lives," the congressman said.

Training is free, but the school's actual cost per student is some $3,500. Until this summer, the program relied strictly on donations and grants, as well as money earned with its local catering service.

With its recent designation as a non-profit, it is eligible for federal and state funding and grants.

More than 15,000 meals made at the school have been donated to the town's Social Services food pantry since the program began in 2007.

Mr. Murphy said the school is a "model training program" that has earned community accolades and financial support because of its proven success.

The program is headed by founder and director Dawn Hammacott and chef Blythe Roberts.

"It's an amazing program that is so badly needed right now," Mr. Murphy said. "These folks are graduating with skills that can put them right to work in the food industry."

"The problem is," he remarked, "we need more slots in the program and more programs like it."