The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s (NRAEF) fundraising initiative has officially kicked off, benefiting its ProStart program, a 2-year, industry-driven culinary arts and restaurant management education course for high school students. The goal is to raise $3 million in 2011.

Thus far, fundraising efforts have exceeded $1 million, secured by early commitments from foodservice industry players such as Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, which has donated $100,000.

Other commitments include $250,000 from Brinker International and The Coca-Cola Company; $150,000 from the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation; $100,000 from PepsiCo Foodservice Division and Sysco; $50,000 from Golden Corral; and $25,000 from the American Express Foundation and McCormick for Chefs.

Additional commitments have been made totaling more than $50,000 from Yard House and Firehouse Subs as well as individual contributions. Fundraising efforts are led by Carlton Curtis, vice chair of the NRAEF board of trustees and an executive at The Coca-Cola Company.

Donations will be used to strengthen the program, and to establish a solid foundation for its growth in the next five years from its current base of 90,000 students.

"ProStart provides students with an unparalleled opportunity to not only learn but become inspired and passionate about a future career in our business," said Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of AFC Enterprises Inc. and president of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. "We are proud to support a program that delivers real-world education and life-changing experiences."

Bachelder is part of the ProStart Initiative Cabinet which is focused on the fundraising effort.
 

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