Refugees are men, women and children who have fled their countries of origin as a result of persecution, political instability, armed conflict, or other acts of violence.
Over the last five years, refugees have come from Burma, Iraq, Bhutan, Somalia, Eritrea, Cuba, Iran, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Afghanistan, North Korea, Sri Lanka, Burundi and Russia. Many refugees come to the United States with few personal possessions or contacts. Other refugees come to the US to be reunited with family members.
All refugees receive time-limited assistance from the US government and designated non-profit organizations. During their first two years in the US, most refugees will live at or below poverty level, accepting minimum wage jobs to begin to rebuild their lives. Some are illiterate in any language. Their English skills may initially be nonexistent. Those jobs are often in housekeeping, janitorial, laundry and similar fields.
“It makes sense [to her] that refugees, particularly women, would turn to food businesses for survival. ‘That’s what you can do best with your hands…You do what you have inside your blood.’
– Salt Lake Tribune
After their first two years of resettlement and having learned some English, many refugees begin to think about their next steps in achieving the American Dream:
- Obtaining U.S. citizenship
- Pursuing higher education
- Starting a small business drawing on their current skills. For many women, this includes cooking.
Food industry is the lowest barrier entry for immigrant and refugee communities. Many refugees come to the US having owned or operated their own food business in other countries or have food products they have been selling informally to friends or family.