Food has been an essential part of Ryan Yost’s life since his college days. From culinary school and working as a cook in restaurants and country clubs to managing a food service program in a long-term care facility — even a stint as a chef at Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort — Yost has always seen food as a way to bring people together.
Yost has brought his talents for cooking and love of food to Burke United Christian Ministries as the organization’s new food ministry manager, starting April 19. As food ministry manager, Yost will oversee all of the ministry’s food operations, including the soup kitchen, the food pantry, mobile food pantry and BUCM’s ongoing partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina.
Originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, Yost got his start in the culinary world working in a restaurant while studying American Sign Language in college. During this time, he fell in love with cooking, so after earning his associate degree, he enrolled in The Chef’s Academy, an Indianapolis culinary school. He earned a Bachelor of Culinary Arts and then spent several years working in restaurants, including an internship at Disney World.
“The biggest thing I got out of (my experience at Disney World) was that I worked with all different kinds of people from all over the world,” Yost said. “It really opened my eyes to the world of food and people.”
After several years working in restaurants and country clubs, Yost transferred his skills to a new setting, taking a job as the assistant director of dietary services at a long-term care facility.
“I worked at restaurants and country clubs for several years, and these were jobs I enjoyed, but I wasn’t getting that human touch,” he said. “I needed that personal connection to drive myself.”
Yost said his experience working in long-term care facilities taught him how to use food as a way to connect with people.
“Working in restaurants, people come and go,” he said. “Working at a nursing home, though, you really start to connect with the people because they’re there every day. It’s home for them.”
Yost plans to bring that same philosophy to his work at BUCM.
“Food is what brings us together as a family, as friends, in times of hardships, and in times of joy,” Yost said. “God commands us to love our neighbor, and the way I do this is by cooking for others.”
Yost said that he has been encouraged by the support he has received so far from the staff, volunteers and ministry clients.
“This job as the food ministry manager is my calling,” he said. “I have held other jobs in the food service industry, and all of those jobs were steps that have led me to this position.”
Alice Horton, BUCM’s executive director, looks forward to working alongside Yost and witnessing what he will accomplish in the organization.
“He has a positive, level- headed personality and a welcoming spirit,” Horton said. “He has already brought so many brilliant ideas for collaboration, resourcing and using donated food.”
She is excited about Yost’s vision to transform BUCM’s food ministry into a program that doesn’t just feed people, but seeks to model healthy lifestyle choices and a healthy relationship with food to its clients.
“He is determined to utilize fresh options as much as possible and educate clients and the community of the importance of the relationship between healthy food being the first step to a healthy lifestyle,” she said.
Yost said his most significant current challenge in building the program is an ongoing need for volunteers.
“We need people to help in the warehouse and the kitchen,” he said. “Slowly but surely, our volunteers are coming back, but there are still days we don’t have many people here.”
“Volunteer hours decreased during COVID,” she said. “However, we are ready to welcome new and old volunteers back, and we are flexible regarding personal schedules. Even one meaningful hour of volunteer time makes a difference.”