Sometimes, safety is a place rather than a strategy. Two innovative programs in New Orleans have created a haven for at-risk youth and young adults. Liberty’s Kitchen and Café Reconcile equip New Orleanians with a nurturing environment for learning culinary skills that can translate into viable careers in tourism and hospitality and a positive presence in the workforce.
Located within the Whole Foods in Mid-City, Liberty’s Kitchen provides employability and life skills training to vulnerable local youth. Beyond simply training kids, Liberty’s Kitchen goes further, offering three sub-programs that create a holistic sense of community and success.
First, the program’s youth development program provides workforce training related to the culinary arts while also taking time to address underlying issues like health care, mental health, and financial literacy that can create road blocks on the path to self-sufficiency.
Another facet of Liberty’s Kitchen is the School Nutrition Program, which provides kids with made-from-scratch meals prepared on-site at their schools in an effort to educate low-income children about nutrition while also fighting childhood obesity.
Café Reconcile in Central City has two major tenants: providing young people with the life skills, work skills, and education to steer themselves toward productivity, and establishing a positive presence in the neighborhood to create a sense of community and spur economic growth. Throughout the years, the facility has achieved both goals, helping to rehabilitate the neighborhood and its youth by equipping students with culinary skills and a safe gathering place.
Now housed in a 17,000 square-foot facility, Café Reconcile started off as a small sweets shop called Sweet T. The sweet shop grew into a full-service restaurant, which over the years has trained more than 1,000 young people ages 16 to 22 through its 12-week workforce development program. After the program, these youth have gone on to find job placement at restaurants, hospitals, and other food-service entities across the city.
Beyond simply providing work development and training, Café Reconcile addresses the needs of its participants living in Central City. Computer literacy, parenting skills, GED education, and general support are all objectives of the Café Reconcile team.
Both these innovative programs prove food is much more than just nourishment for the body. Liberty’s Kitchen and Café Reconcile feed our future through their commitment to nurturing New Orleans’ youth.