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School Lunch Pioneer Says the American Jobs Act Will Help Him Make Great Hires

Jason Gagnon of Choicelunch believes the Bridge to Work provision will be a great benefit to both employers and prospective employees

The White House Business Council invited small business owners and entrepreneurs from across the country to a forum we hosted with Business Forward earlier this month. While they were here, we spoke to some of the people we met about the secrets of their success, and found out how the American Jobs Act will enable them to grow even more quickly in 2012.

The Bridge to Work provision of the American Jobs Act will enable Justin Gangon's California company, Choicelunch, to offer training in the extremely marketable food service industry to disadvantaged youths in 2012. Provisions in the President's comprehensive plan to immediately put workers back on the job and put more money in the pockets of working Americans will also help the company optimize long-term employee retention by allowing both Choicelunch and prospective employees to determine a better fit prior to hiring. Gangon, a co-founder, says the American Jobs Act will help him grow his business in 2012:

"In doing my initial research, I believe the Bridge to Work provision could be a great benefit.  We have a lot of employees who have been with us for years, and we've had people walk-off the job in the first few hours after making it through a lengthy interview process because they didn't fully realize what it would entail (even though we allow them to observe the work performed and detail the job at length). Ultimately, putting people in a job on a provisional basis is as good for the employee as it is for the employer - both sides get to assess if it's a good match and the probability of long-term success, retention and job satisfaction increases."

Gagnon met his Choicelunch co-founders through an acapella group at Notre Dame, where their first business venture was organizing (and surviving) a 40-stop national tour. Ryan Mariotti studied chemical engineering, Keith Cosbey was a piano performance major, and Gagnon pursued a business degree, and after they graduated in 2000, each got jobs in their respective fields. But, in 2003, Gagnon pulled in Mariotti and Cosbey to help propel his parents’ catering business into a company that would partner with schools to bring a different flair to kids fare, despite the fact that none had any training or experience as chefs. 

In the beginning, Choicelunch was a small operation with little profit: the college trio lived at home to save money. Now things are different. Choicelunch operates four kitchens with 30 trucks to deliver lunches ordered by parents to 220 schools in California. Gagnon estimates that Choicelunch’s “culinary dream team” produces 16,000 to 18,000 meals per day. The team coordinates with local farmers to create a menu of 17 healthy, wholesome, allergy-conscious lunches to choose from, featuring organic ingredients and including homemade nitrite-free bagel dogs and hand-rolled, kid-friendly sushi.  According to Gagnon, though, the growth hasn’t taken away from Choicelunch’s family feel: “Starting from passionate roots, everyone on the team is engaged and excited about the Choicelunch mission. That’s what makes us a success.”

Justin Gagnon, founder of Choicelunch