News From the Kitchen
Our School Nutrition Program staff has worked hard all fall to start the school year off right, preparing thousands of healthy meals every day for local schoolchildren. Co-Production Managers Susan and Brandon joined our LK family in August and are a true Dream Team, bringing to the table skills in talent development, production, and communications, as well as an endless passion for SNP! We sat down with them to learn more.
Tell us about yourselves.
Susan: I am from El Salvador, a beautiful country I love and hold dear, but it has a lot of social and safety issues. Because of those issues I came to the United States in 2005 to follow my dream to better my range of opportunities and life choices. In the process of following that dream, my daughter is benefitting immensely from these new opportunities that I only dreamt of her having. I have worked in the restaurant industry since 2006 and have since transferred my kitchen abilities into the world of management and training. I believe that my culinary and managerial skills can be used as a tool for social change.
Brandon: I am originally from New Orleans and have traveled in different cities such as San Francisco, Atlanta and New York. I went to culinary school at the Art Institute of NYC. I connect fully with the mission of helping others which is the focal point of Liberty’s Kitchen.
What is SNP?
Susan: The School Nutrition Program is a branch of Liberty’s Kitchen that touches the lives of more than 1,500 kids and their families on a daily basis by nurturing them and fulfilling their need for a healthy, balanced diet. We believe good nutrition will facilitate kids’ success in academic performance as well as outside of school. One of our main objectives is to feed them with three to four meals on a daily basis with as much food made from scratch as we can, using local fresh products while following USDA guidelines. We aim to create menus that are both delicious and nutritious.
We hope to touch the lives of these kids not only through providing a balanced diet but also by being part of an integral education that will lead them to make better meal choices outside of school. To fulfill this goal, we are starting to work hand in hand with New Orleans College Prep to create and implement educational programs like: farm to school, composting, and school gardening whereby both Liberty’s Kitchen and the schools can educate kids on the importance of each project.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Susan: My favorite part is providing our team members with the right tools for success and seeing how the tools I’m giving them helps them work towards positive changes in their lives.
Brandon: I love feeding the children and menu development.
Where do you want SNP to be one year from now?
Susan: We know SNP will continue being a source of empowerment, betterment, and a tool for social justice and nourishment for our community. We are working to grow and give more people a chance to join this project. I see SNP making more job creation, education, and training opportunities possible. Just as importantly, it will keep bettering the lives of children through providing the nutrition they deserve and that they will receive through our special menus and educational activities.
Brandon: Agreed. It’s our goal to expand our program to other schools using the systems we have implemented.
Anything else to include?
Susan: Just a little quote: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” –Gandhi
We are thrilled to be rolling out an additional eight months of “next level” support and programming for YDP graduates! We sat down with stellar Youth Leadership Program Coordinator Devon Turner to learn about what’s ahead.
Tell us about YLP.
The Youth Leadership Program is an 8-month extension to the training program. It’s all about building upon previous personal successes to cultivate their leadership potential and address issues within their families, communities, and city.
What does that look like day to day?
A lot of this is brand new, so we’ve been building out a structure for the YLP and developing new programming. I’m working with two great interns – Wil Cousin and Raynard Janeau – who came to us through the Kellogg Foundation’s Young Men’s Voices (have) Power initiative. Together, we’ve focused on building an alumni community in general and a strong Youth Leadership Council specifically.
Day to day, we’re creating a community of graduates across time and place. We have six key areas of engagement: leadership and civic engagement, education, career development, advanced hospitality exposure, health and well-being, and social engagement. Every month we want to offer at least one activity in each of those areas and have a monthly check in and goal planning session to which all graduates are invited.
What are some events you’ve had?
Our Youth Leadership Council held its first meeting in March 2016, and programming started in May with a career development workshop. We’ve had additional career development workshops, a demonstration with Chef Renee at Palace Café, another with Chef Chris Okorie, goal planning sessions, give back opportunities, and opportunities for alumni to engage trainees. In April, alumni participated in the Raise the Age campaign, which was part of the juvenile justice reform movement. Youth Leadership Council members also participated in a leadership training offered by Harvard School of Government students and met with Councilmember Latoya Cantrell.
Tell us about the Youth Leadership Council.
The YLC is a group of very dedicated grads who are creating and developing alumni programming, recruiting new participants, and taking on leadership projects. The Council is intended to redefine existing narratives of young people in this city. Narratives about young people who work hard, who have a different vision for what the city can look like, who are tired of crime and miseducation and violence and substandard housing and urban blight – those stories are treated as celebrated exceptions. However, our participants demonstrate that those stories are far from the exception. They can speak very well about what this city could look like. My role is that of a facilitator and advisor.
Let’s talk future. What is the ultimate vision for YLP (one year from now)?
I’d love to see graduates who have really embraced a leadership role in their communities, who are really active in trying to address the social issues that affect them the most. In a beautiful world, they would be addressing those larger issues so they’re not just trying to survive from day to day, but tackling the issues that produce that kind of day to day living.
What does leadership mean to you?
To be a leader is to be someone who understands the day-to-day struggle and can transform that understanding into a call to action. As it pertains to YLP, we’re really helping graduates understand their strengths and their leadership potential, helping them to understand that being a leader is not something that’s dependent upon having “X” amount of dollars in your account or having achieved a certain level of formal education. We all can and should be leaders.
This month, we piloted a new version of our final program tier—professional development and externships.
Many times, externships can feel like a “bucket of ice water”: the people are new, the food is new, the schedule is new…everything is new. It can be overwhelming, and it didn’t work for everyone. Our program staff wanted to come up with a way to scaffold the path into independent employment so that more trainees could achieve success.
In our new model, eight of our trainees participated in two weeks of half day “stages” at a Ruby Slipper site, then returned to Liberty’s Kitchen in the afternoon for lessons and coaching on resumes, cover letters, and interviewing. As a growing, busy, multi-location breakfast and lunch restaurant, The Ruby Slipper was an ideal partner for our trainees to get a taste of working in a new environment while still maintaining confidence in their newly developed kitchen and café skills.
Managers and staff from The Ruby Slipper participated in an orientation at Liberty’s Kitchen prior to hosting their first “stages” and completed detailed weekly assessments to assist us in coaching each trainee towards their next best self. Following the two weeks, trainees transitioned into three-week externships at businesses they applied to during their professional development training. They ended up all over the city, at The Ruby Slipper Café, Bennachin, The Juju Bag, Bittersweet Confections, and Sassafras. Trainees reported a stronger sense of confidence and skill thanks to their focused two weeks at The Ruby Slipper.
Thanks to The Ruby Slipper for investing your time and energy in furthering the development of our young people!
–Posted by Harry Schnur
Life at Liberty’s Kitchen is never boring, and stellar staff make it all the more fun. We sat down with our summer intern, Brendan, to discuss his experience at LK before he heads home!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Washington, DC but I go to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. There I am a psychology major and education minor going into my senior year. I walked on to Dartmouth’s Varsity Heavyweight Rowing Team my freshman year and have been competing with them ever since. I’m also a member of the Beta Alpha Omega fraternity. After graduation, I would like to do something in education that would allow me to combine my psych and education background. I’m still figuring out if that means teaching, working at a place like Liberty’s Kitchen, or something else.
Describe your typical day at Liberty’s Kitchen.
Most of my time here was in the Orientation class with Ms. D. I mainly helped facilitate discussions about conflict resolution, anger management, goal planning, etc. I also got to watch the class progress from a group of individuals to one unified class over the course of the three weeks, which was really fun to be a part of in both Orientation groups that I worked with.
Other days I worked with Harry in Professional Development and helped edit resumes, write cover letters, and practice job interviewing. Trainees in this group are beginning the job search process so it was fun to see them land their externships after going through the frustrating process of creating resumes.
In between the two Orientation sessions, I also worked with Devon in the Youth Leadership Program. Since it’s a new program a lot of my work was helping design what this section of Liberty’s Kitchen would look like. I reached out to the Leadership Council to come in for Career Development and Goal Planning office hours but I also worked with the team to plan future events.
What was your relationship like with the trainees?
My relationship with the trainees was great! I was pretty close with the trainees in the Orientation class because that’s where I spent most of my time. We joked around a fair amount outside of the class (during breaks and Family Meal) and had really good conversations on the different topics covered in class. I definitely felt like I was included in their development to becoming one class of teammates.
Even with trainees I didn’t know as well, I didn’t feel like I was out of the group – from trainees to staff alike, I always felt welcomed and included in whatever was going on.
What was your biggest takeaway from your internship?
Liberty’s Kitchen is a small organization, but their work is powerful and fun to be around! I was lucky enough to sit in on one of the graduations and you can see just from that one hour how much love LK puts into what they do. Everyone comes to celebrate the recent graduates and they bring family members as well as employers. And it’s not just putting on a show; it really does demonstrate that this work doesn’t just happen in the building. It takes family. It takes partnerships. It takes community. It takes commitment from everyone involved and you can see that graduations are one of the many ways LK takes the time to celebrate their trainees and graduates for their hard work and dedication to the process, and to thank community members for supporting their process.
I think it speaks a lot to what Liberty’s Kitchen does everyday: they aren’t just empowering youth to do better for themselves. They’re creating community leaders that, by doing well for themselves, can empower those around them to do the same.
Thanks for all your hard work and dedication to our trainees, Brendan! We know you’ll do great things and will miss having you in the classroom!