Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ) and Rastelli Foods Group announced a new Premier Partnership designed to provide global expertise for industry-backed entrepreneurship and food science programs to educate tomorrow's entrepreneurial, culinary, and agricultural innovators.
On Monday, May 8, County officials joined members of the higher education and local business communities on RCSJ's Gloucester campus to celebrate the creation of a partnership in education, employment, and economic opportunity expansion.
“I have known the Rastelli family for years and so it comes as no surprise that Ray is forging a Premier Partnership and commitment to his community in a more impactful and meaningful way," said Frank J. DiMarco, Gloucester County Commission Director. “His gift comes at a time when we are about to face a real problem – how to develop alternatives for food sources when farming is on the decline. Together, with Rastelli Foods Group, RCSJ and Rowan University, we can stay ahead of it by developing a new pathway to food sourcing."
“Ray Rastelli's actions show what it means to pay it forward," remarked Jim Jefferson, Gloucester County Commissioner. “This is an example of not only supporting his alma mater but also showing the commitment and vision to invest in our most precious resource, our children's future."
Rastelli Foods Group is an industry-leading corporation providing food service, retail, and direct-to-consumer ecommerce with the highest-quality food products. Since their inception in 1976, they have expanded their operation from two retail locations to two high-quality, USDA-inspected processing facilities, warehouses, and distribution centers. A recently completed, multi-million-dollar renovation to their plant and headquarters included an in-house content production studio, state-of-the-art research and development kitchen, and multiple retail ready packaging lines.
"As a proud alumnus of Gloucester County College (now RCSJ), this project holds a deeply personal meaning for me," shared Ray Rastelli, President and CEO of Rastelli Foods Group. “Rastelli's is a homegrown company, dedicated to supporting the growth and development of the South Jersey community."
“Through our partnership with RCSJ, we aim to help shape the future of food science, research and development, engineering, and food manufacturing in South Jersey; creating more job opportunities for our own team members and other food companies in the area," Rastelli continued. “By investing in career mentorship and education, we are strengthening our community, supporting other homegrown companies, and bolstering our economy. This College set the foundation for growing Rastelli's into who we are today, and our family is honored to help continue that tradition for future generations."
Rastelli's has demonstrated their commitment to that goal with a generous $1 million donation to RCSJ. This gift will allow for the creation of scholarships to support RCSJ students pursuing their education in the fields of business and the food industry. It will also provide funding for the research and development of future programs – beginning with Data Analytics, Food Process Technology, and Logistics & Supply Chain Management programs, already in the early stages of development.
Students within RCSJ's Business Studies Division will be educated and trained in a building displaying the Rastelli name — the Rastelli Business & Corporate Center – and members of its workforce will add their expertise to the Division's program advisory boards. In appreciation, RCSJ will provide all Rastelli Foods Group employees with a 40% discount on tuition and fees when they choose to pursue their education at RCSJ.
“Because of this new Premier Partnership with Rastelli Foods Group, our faculty will benefit from interactions with members of the Rastelli team, who will help us to refine and strengthen our academic programs," commented Dr. Patricia Claghorn, RCSJ's dean of Business Studies. “More importantly, our students will have the unique opportunity to learn entrepreneurship skills directly from Mr. Rastelli, a master entrepreneur, who has successfully built a global brand that is based here in Gloucester County."
RCSJ's Internship & Career Planning Division will also benefit from the partnership, as Rastelli's will offer paid internship opportunities for RCSJ business students to bolster their resumes with valuable workplace experience prior to graduation. For those prepared to join the workforce on a more permanent basis, the partnership offers a “direct connection employment program" which provides students and graduates with the chance to explore numerous employment opportunities through Rastelli's Human Resources department.
"Rowan College of South Jersey is proud to partner with Rastelli Foods Group, as we work together to prepare the next generation of entrepreneurial, culinary and agricultural innovators for success in today's global marketplace," remarked Dr. Frederick Keating, president of RCSJ. “We thank Rastelli's for the generous financial and educational support provided to our students in the form of scholarships and experiential learning opportunities, and the invaluable industry expertise they are contributing to reinvigorate and expand our academic offerings in the realms of business and food science."
As a member of the next generation of entrepreneurial innovators, Business Administration major, Irene Tantaros, hopes to follow Ray Rastelli's example when it comes to her own family's business. Her father immigrated from Greece at 19 years old with a dream and a tremendous amount of determination. After a decade of hard work, her parents opened Blue Cork Winery in 2013. Tantaros's desire to drive her family business to new levels of success is what brought her to RCSJ.
“At the end of this week I will become the first in my family to earn a college degree," Tantaros reflected. “My associate degree coupled with my future bachelor's degree in Accounting (from Rowan University) will give me something my parents never had – the formal credentials to back up the wisdom they gathered through an appreciation of family tradition and years of fighting through adversity to pursue their passion."
“As our land grew from dirt and rocks to soil and vines, so too will I grow from a young businesswoman taking her first classes at RCSJ to a fulfilled, confident and strong leader of the wine industry," she continued. “In other words, I think my journey is going to look a lot like Ray Rastelli's."
For more information about programs offered through RCSJ's Division of Business Studies, visit RCSJ.edu/Business. To learn more about Rastelli Foods Group, visit rastellifoodsgroup.com.