News From the Kitchen

Nutrition Education at SNP

Hi everyone! I’m Selma Nunez, the Nutrition and Sustainability Coordinator at the School Nutrition Program. I’m excited to announce that our School Nutrition Program is piloting new nutrition initiatives this year that will allow us to further health and wellness for the schoolchildren we serve. We believe that underserved individuals, especially those from low-income backgrounds, and their families, deserve health and wellness as much as any other population. Nutrition is very significant, and it can have positive or adverse effect with regard to health. Our hope at SNP is to both provide access to healthy school food and teach students how to make health-conscious decisions on their own. Furthermore, we intend to use school nutrition as a tool for further professional development for our youth in YDP as they continue to learn, grow, and lead in New Orleans and beyond.

Three new ways we’ll serve our scholars:

Star Nursery Satsumas

1) Local procurement: We’re building direct relationships with local farmers as we source product from them to use in our school meals. In this way, we are able to serve the best and freshest tasting ingredients in season. Ultimately, we plan to integrate visits to local farms as part of our curriculum.

2) Starting an on-site school garden: Last week, we held the official groundbreaking for a garden at Crocker College Prep! Many thanks to partners Sysco and Instar Farms for their help and support. This garden will be the site for nutrition lessons for kids and ultimately, we’ll be able to cook with herbs and vegetables we grow there. More importantly, we and the students will learn more about the ingredients in our foods and have a direct hand in the process of growth.

3) Nutrition education: This summer, I taught a pilot nutrition education course at the Jewish Community Center summer camp. We held lessons with 125 campers, showing them how to prepare healthy foods. It was a lot of fun! This fall, I’m starting a weekly after-school club called “Liberty’s Kitchen Lab” at Crocker College Prep to keep the momentum going with middle school aged scholars. Our first class was about getting to know the students and their current working knowledge around preparing, producing and eating nutritious food. We want to increase their knowledge of and hands-on training with the food process.

The long-term goal is to develop relationships with local farmers for the best regional/seasonal ingredients, encourage ongoing product knowledge through the school garden and build community exposure to different foods, and ultimately to see a decrease in obesity rates of our children as they make better-informed nutritional choices. We’ll apply knowledge and experience in nutrition to implement programs and services that support individuals and their families in their journey to improved holistic health outcomes.

As you can tell, we’ve got a lot going on, so stay tuned for more news from SNP.

~Selma Núñez – Nutrition and Sustainability Coordinator

Meet Our Louisiana Delta Service Corps Members

October 25, 2017 | Staff Spotlight

Josh (Program Development Coordinator) and Carly Johnson (Volunteer Coordinator)

We are so excited to have two Louisiana Delta Service Corps (LDSC) members join our team this fall. We sat down with Carly and Josh to get to know the newest members of the LK Family.

Tell us about yourselves:

Josh: I am a native of New Orleans, LA and I am also a second year graduate student at Southern University at New Orleans.

Carly: I’m originally from Detroit, but I grew up in Boston where I recently graduated from Wheelock College and received a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW). I’m new to New Orleans! When I’m not at Liberty’s Kitchen, I enjoy capturing photos of clouds and sunsets, listening to music at Blue Nile, and since it’s basketball season…you can find me at the Smoothie King Center.

Why did you want to work at Liberty’s Kitchen?            

Josh: What drew me to LK was the inclusion dynamic, we include everyone! The diversity is amazing here and it is really a family atmosphere across the board. The cohesion definitely played a major role in why I wanted to be a part of LK.

Carly: When I was applying to LDSC, I was encouraged to check out Liberty’s Kitchen and the opportunities available here. Once I did that, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of! I was drawn to the innovative approach of the Youth Development Program as a means to create sustainable employment opportunities even if that meant seeking opportunities in fields outside of hospitality.

What are you working on?

Josh: Currently, I am the Program Coordinator which means I work with the Programs team to help enhance the experience of the participants.

Carly: This year, my main focus is on building a strong volunteer program and increasing Liberty’s Kitchen’s capacity for volunteers. I am looking forward to creating volunteer opportunities that engage our dedicated supporters in ways that complement their talents, skills and interests.

Anything to add?

Josh: I love being a part of the LK family and I look forward to what’s on the horizon!

Carly: I’m always looking for good book suggestions! My reading queue at the moment includes Born a Crime, Floodlines, and The Color of Law.

Welcome, Carly & Josh!

Our Youth-Led Mayoral Town Hall

October 11, 2017 | Events, Youth Leadership

On Thursday, September 28th, Liberty’s Kitchen held its first event in our brand new Taylor Center for Young Leadership. The inaugural event was none other than a Young Adult-led Town Hall forum featuring the mayoral candidates. The event was put together by fellow YLP/YMVP intern DJ Bolling, myself, and members of our Youth Leadership Council (Andryan LaGarde, Kiall Wilson, and Nadja Sampson).

After attending the Spring Lobby Weekend hosted by The Friends Committee on National Legislation where Nadja, DJ, and I learned how to lobby by telling your story, DJ and I came up with the idea for a town hall forum. We realized the power that young adults have when it comes to voicing their opinions on the issues that matter most to them.

We started planning the forum in June. From the inception to the execution of the event, we knew that we were in charge of organizing a project that took a great deal of time and effort to execute. Many hours were poured into meetings and research sessions to ensure that we were able to put forth a quality event that would allow not only participants of our Youth Development Program (YDP), but young adults around the city the opportunity to voice their concerns about the issues they find the most important to potential leaders of our city.

DJ having a conversation with Michael Bagneris during the meet and greet portion of the town hall.

I’m glad to say the event was a huge success. Featured on our panel of candidates were Michael Bagneris, Manny “Chevrolet” Bruno, Edward “Ed” Bruski, Edward Collins Sr., Brandon Dorrington, Matthew Hill, Derrick O’Brien Martin, Tommie A. Vassel and Hashim Walters.

Before the start of the forum, candidates had the opportunity to talk with their potential constituents during the meet and greet portion of the event.

The topics of the town hall forum were drawn from both participants and alumni of our Youth Development Program. In preparation for the event, over the course of the summer, during every other Friday, DJ and I held a series of informational workshops, conversations, and presentations deemed “Advocacy Friday”. Throughout these sessions, we discussed topics such as lobbying, apathy in the political process, utilizing social media to have conversations on important issues, and other issues that the participants of the program found to be the most pressing.

After narrowing down the wide list of suggested topics, we found that the 3 topics that participants and alumni found most important were: The Criminal Justice System, Minimum Wage, and Homelessness.

Audience members during the town hall forum.

Next, came the outreach portion of our project. In order to have an audience for our event, we reached out to various youth-focused organizations in the city along with any of our personal contacts involved in similar organizations, letting them know about our plan to have a young adult-led town hall forum. Along with said organizations, we also tapped our alumni base to see what issues they found to be important and invited them to be a part of the forum. In the process, I also learned how to write a press release to attract news media to our event, a skill that I’m sure will be quite useful in my career.

From left to right: Alum Kenisha Charles, Joya Barconey, and Jayy Riley.

Alum Kenisha Charles, YDP participant Jayy Riley, and alum Joya Barconey, volunteered to each present one of the 3 questions, which were voted on by participants and alumni prior to the event. The questions included:

  • “As Mayor, what will you do to curb crime in the city? Will you put more NOPD officers on the street? Or do you have a different approach to making New Orleans safer? (Criminal Justice System)”
  • “As Mayor, what will you do to increase the minimum wage while ensuring the cost of living doesn’t outpace it? (Minimum Wage)”
  • and “What are your plans for reducing homelessness and helping homeless people get the resources they need? (Homelessness)”

Hashim Walters discussing his plans to improve the city’s outdated water pump systems.

After the preselected questions, we opened the floor to audience questions. The questions ranged in topic from blighted properties to fixing potholes in the street and what should be done about the city’s water pump systems.

When asked about what they would do to improve the city’s water pump systems, Hashim Walters offered a creative solution: in order to inform people about the status of the pumps, he would utilize an app that would notify people which pumps are in working order with updates once a week outside of hurricane season and notifications every four days during hurricane season.

Lita Farquhar asking the candidates what they would do to improve the lives of hospitality workers.

Overall, the audience was highly satisfied with the answers that the candidates gave. Lita Farquhar, Director of Community Engagement at R.E.A.C.H. Out NOLA, who asked a question about what the candidates would do to improve the lives of hospitality workers, noted: “It felt like a one-on-one experience, and I feel like a lot of voices got heard that usually don’t get heard.”

Assane Ndiaye asking a question about how the candidates would improve the condition of damaged roads in the city.

After the event, I had a chance to talk to Assane Ndiaye, a student at Benjamin Franklin High School, who had a question about how the candidates would fix the various damaged roads in the city. He said, “I think the event was very helpful, in terms of deciding who’s the best for the job. I know I can’t vote yet, but I’m starting to see how we’re moving away from our kind of shady type of politics in New Orleans to more open conversations and leading to change. I think all of the candidates here seem like they were open to being open with us instead of what we’ve been seeing, which is more closed in.”

The event ended just a little while before 7 p.m. With the audience feeling content about the issues that the candidates covered, we were able to end the forum earlier than planned with our thoughts focused on how we could possibly follow up this momentous occasion.

Our Mayoral Town Hall Forum may have been the first major event in our brand new space, but it certainly won’t be the last. We look forward to bringing you many more exciting, informative, and thought-provoking events in the near future.

Posted by Ahmaad Lott, YMVP Intern

Whole Foods Market Field Trip

As part of the local ReFresh Project, Liberty’s Kitchen is conveniently located in the same building as the Broad St. Whole Foods Market (WFM).  WFM shows its support of the Liberty’s Kitchen mission by purchasing our salad dressings (like the Green Goddess dressing) for the salad bar and employing some of our graduates.

During the culinary tier of the Youth Development Program, which is the second week, Chef T. takes trainees on a tour around the store to teach them about how supermarkets organize their products and how to make smart grocery-purchasing decisions. She taught us about product placement and a few other “tricks of the trade” that supermarkets use to encourage us to buy more.  We saw that in the cheese section, they accompany the cheese with fruit, olives, and wine, which “suggestively sells it to you.”  

In addition to showing us some ways in which supermarkets market their foods, Chef T. also taught us some ways to save money while shopping.  For example, we learned that it is more economical to buy a whole melon, not the pre-cut and packaged containers (it also reduces waste from the disposable containers). I personally noticed a sale on the bunches of kale and saved money by choosing the bunches over the cut, washed, and packaged bags of kale. You can also save a few dollars by buying dry ingredients, like grains and legumes, from the bulk section.  Bringing your own bags will get you a small discount as well – and it’s a simple way to reduce waste.  Last, we learned about distinguishing fruits from vegetables, herbs from spices, and so much more.

I enjoyed the mini field trip and learned many facts and tips from Chef T.

Posted by Miriam Teller, Development Intern