Executive Director, Liberty’s Kitchen
Photo by Cheryl Gerber
Liberty’s Kitchen is a nonprofit organization providing career development training and school nutrition programs for New Orleans area youth. For the youth development program, participants gain occupational skills to succeed in the food service industry. In addition, Liberty’s Kitchen provides school children with healthy, freshly made meals prepared onsite at their cafeterias. If that weren’t enough, the Liberty’s Kitchen Cafés serve up breakfast and lunch to lucky diners at the Broad Street or Poydras Street locations. To learn more about this organization, I spoke with Dave Emond, Executive Director of Liberty’s Kitchen.
Recognizing the tremendous untapped potential of New Orleans youth, Janet Davas founded Liberty’s Kitchen in 2009. The original aim was to help young people in New Orleans gain career development opportunities in the hospitality industry, the city’s largest employment sector. Within a year, however, Davas recognized the need for healthy school lunches in the area and began the school nutrition program as well. Using great food to empower area youth remains the organization’s goal.
Thanks to its proven success, Liberty’s Kitchen has the potential to help the almost 6,000 young people in New Orleans who are still disconnected from school and work. By increasing its capacity, the organization can serve and train even more. To this end, Liberty’s Kitchen just finished construction on a new Center for Young Leadership. Plus, the organization recently opened a new cafeteria on Poydras Street. With these additions, Liberty’s Kitchen can provide more leadership development and management opportunities for New Orleans youth.
In addition, the school nutrition program currently provides around 4,000 daily meals to low-income public-school children in the city. All meals are fresh and made from scratch. By serving up fare such as sweet and sour chicken, crunchy turkey tacos and turkey and sausage gumbo, children can learn to love healthy, nourishing meals.
As a testament to the organization’s success, Liberty’s Kitchen graduates are in high demand for local jobs in the hospitality industry. Thanks to its effective workforce training program, young people gain access to career opportunities all over New Orleans. “We struggle to keep up with requests from employer partners seeking to hire our young people,” says Emond. “This is a good problem to have.”
Liberty’s Kitchen needs donations to continue its mission. Although its food service business generates approximately half of the organization’s operating revenue, community member support is still crucial for its continued growth and success. Visit LibertysKitchen.org to learn more, get involved and check out their menu.