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Cafe Reconcile, Liberty’s Kitchen, and Cafe Hope providing New Orleans youth with skills to build successful futures

Written by  IntheNOLA.com
When someone asks us for a recommendation for a restaurant to go to, it’s so hard to narrow it down. There’s Deanie’s Seafood in Bucktown and Katie’s Restaurant in Mid City…and Munch Factory in Gentilly and High Hat Café on Freret.
 
Aside from the regulars we all frequent, New Orleans is also home to three great restaurants, Café Reconcile, Liberty’s Kitchen, and Café Hope, that in addition to serving up great food are also providing important life skills for our young New Orleanians, particularly those at-risk for getting lost in the violence and despair that way too many of our young people fall victim to. At Café Reconcile, Liberty’s Kitchen, and Café Hope, while you’re eating your delicious meal, you’re also helping our youth gain the necessary skills to lead a successful and independent lives.
Cafe Reconcile, Liberty’s Kitchen, and Cafe Hope providing New Orleans youth with skills to build successful futures | IntheNOLA.com
Café Reconcile (1631 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.) “is a faith based social enterprise that seeks to provide high-risk youth with the skills and the confidence that they need to secure career track jobs to stabilize their lives and provide for their families,” explained David Emond, Director of Development at Café Reconcile.
 
“Our ultimate goal is to have our students in the position that they have the confidence that they need to be able to keep a job. Many of them have never been employed full-time and they don't have any exposure to the culture of work that they need when they arrive at our program. We try to help them to put those skills together to be able to step out into the workforce, and be able to succeed over the long term.”
 
With students from ages 16-22, Café Reconcile teaches students culinary, hospitality, and life skills. “The vast majority, just about every single one of our students, lives in poverty,” continued David. “About 80% of them have not been able to complete high school. Many of them come to us with unstable housing accommodations, unstable or no childcare, no transportation, no medical care, and no access to mental health treatment. They have all those issues that need to be resolved; they are really battered and need all the help they can get to put all the pieces together. Our job first and foremost is to provide them with job training and placement assistance, but also to help them work out all those other obstacles that they face in their life.”
 Cafe Reconcile, Liberty’s Kitchen, and Cafe Hope providing New Orleans youth with skills to build successful futures | IntheNOLA.com
Over 1,000 young New Orleanians have completed the program since 2000 with many of them acquiring permanent positions in the food service industry. “By dining at Café Reconcile, you help to train the students while supporting their training financially and you also get some great food!”
 
Down the road from Café Reconcile is another program and restaurant aimed at providing our youth with resources and experiences to create self-sufficient adults. Liberty’s Kitchen (reopening this summer at 300 N. Broad St.) “is dedicated helping vulnerable youth in New Orleans live healthy and productive lives,” said Jorie Kirschbaum, Development Associate at Liberty’s Kitchen. “In less than five years, we have earned national recognition for our efforts to provide more than 300 disconnected young people with paths to self-sufficiency through our foodservice-based Youth Development Program. In addition, our School Nutrition Program has resulted in more than one million fresh, nutritious meals served to low-income school children over the past four years.”
 Cafe Reconcile, Liberty’s Kitchen, and Cafe Hope providing New Orleans youth with skills to build successful futures | IntheNOLA.com
Like Café Reconcile, Liberty’s Kitchen works with at-risk youth from 16-24 years old. “We work with high risk young people who face a variety of obstacles in attaining and sustaining employment. This population of New Orleanians is often referred to as ‘disconnected’: out-of-school, out-of-work, and often out of hope. Our students often live in abject poverty and are technically homeless moving from pillar to post.  Many grew up in chaotic homes and dropped out of school, lacking role models to learn necessary life skills and responsibilities. Many of our male participants face challenges associated with involvement in the criminal justice system and the violence in the city, and many of our female participants deal with the obstacles of single motherhood and raising children before truly maturing themselves. Deficient education, limited social and workplace skills, and various other immense hurdles hinder them from becoming productive, employable community members.” 
 
Jorie continued, “As a social enterprise, Liberty’s Kitchen supports its mission with teaching-focused businesses including our working café and coffee house, catering services, school lunch operations, and our new wholesale food production line with Whole Foods Market. These businesses provide hands-on experience for program participants as well as financial support for the Youth Development Program, which is geared towards increasing our participants’ capacity to become independent, self-sufficient, and successfully employed. Students graduate from Liberty’s Kitchen with the life and employability skills necessary to succeed in work. They are able to transform their lives by becoming productive members of their community, able to support themselves and their families.”
 Cafe Reconcile, Liberty’s Kitchen, and Cafe Hope providing New Orleans youth with skills to build successful futures | IntheNOLA.com
This summer, Liberty’s Kitchen will be moving to a 10,000 square foot space at the Whole Foods Market Broad St. as part of the ReFresh Project, “an innovative community and economic development focused on delivering fresh, healthy and affordable food as well as business and job opportunities to the underserved neighborhoods surrounding Broad Street in New Orleans.”
 
Across the bridge from Liberty’s Kitchen and Café Reconcile lies Café Hope, a farm to table restaurant serving the young adults of the Greater New Orleans area. “The overall goal of Café Hope is very simply self-sufficiency,” explained Café Hope Program Director Chance Doyle. “However, we found that after students had finished the program, retaining jobs was difficult. Past graduates boiled it down to a couple of things that were standing in their way. When they would work in the kitchen, they would learn the skills, but they were still lacking what we put under the umbrella of life skills.  That's broken down into four components that include attitude, responsibility, communication, and problem solving. At the same time, many of them were illiterate, so we incorporated an education component that touches on financial mathematics, reading comprehension, and more creative problem solving. Thinking outside of the box is essential to changing the course of their lives.”
 Cafe Reconcile, Liberty’s Kitchen, and Cafe Hope providing New Orleans youth with skills to build successful futures | IntheNOLA.com
Students in Café Hope’s program range in age of 17-22, many of whom have never finished high school, have criminal records, or children of their own. “We service a lot of youth that feel like they can’t get into the job market or into education. There aren't a lot of programs for a 19-year-old that never made it to high school or that has a strike or two against him. We really want to provide the training support to help them break the mold.”
 
Chance continued, “At the end of the program, we want our students to feel ownership of their lives, that they have the keys to effect change in their lives. That they are the driving force of their life and that armed with that knowledge and attitude, we give them the things to get their life going. I want them to feel a sense of control over their lives; I want them to be confident that their attitudes and actions will make a difference.”
 Cafe Reconcile, Liberty’s Kitchen, and Cafe Hope providing New Orleans youth with skills to build successful futures | IntheNOLA.com
From Monday’s red beans and rice to Wednesday’s gumbo and crab cakes to Friday’s fried shrimp po-boys, Café Reconcile, Liberty’s Kitchen, and Café Hope are on a mission of supporting our most vulnerable young people through the wonderful world of food by providing them with important life skills and instilling self-confidence that they may have never known.
 
So the next you’re trying to figure out where to eat or you’ve got family and friends in town and you wanna show them a good time, head out to one of these fantastic programs that will not only get your belly full, but also contribute to the success of our New Orleanians.



Café Reconcile
1631 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.
NOLA 70113
(504) 568-1157
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Liberty’s Kitchen
300 N. Broad St. (opening later this summer)
NOLA 70119
(504) 822-4011
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Café Hope
1101 Barataria Blvd.
Marrero, LA 70072
(504) 756-4673
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Last modified on Wednesday, 04 June 2014
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