The GREENtrepreneur: Liberty’s Kitchen

LibertySocial enterprise is becoming the new norm for businesses and non-profits alike, and so much so, it is becoming more difficult to distinguish between for-profit and non-profit companies. We interviewed one such company, Liberty’s Kitchen, who is participating in the Green Games and transforming lives through healthy food.

“It’s all a joy, but the greatest joy is the young people,” said Co-founder and Executive Director Janet Davas.

Davas started the program after working at Cafe Reconcile and wanting to start something similar with a slightly different model. She and her partner visited a successful national model, FareStart, and with some luck and networking, landed a grant from the Kellogg Foundation to get things started in 2009.

Today, Liberty’s Kitchen provides at-risk youth, ages 16-21, with the opportunity to build a better future through their intensive training program that combines hands-on food-service training with classroom instruction, individual case management, education programs and job placement services and/or a return to an educational setting. With green job training programs being pioneered in many settings, Liberty’s Kitchen is showing to be quite successful.

“96% of our trainees are employed upon graduation—that’s better than Harvard!” said Davas with a smile. That certainly is something to smile about as one of the primary struggles of any green job training program is transitional employment.

But that’s not the only impressive statistic their success has produced. Liberty’s Kitchen, as a non-profit, is 50% funded by the services they provide—a statistic that far exceeds the typical non-profit that is largely dependent upon grants and government funding.

One of the newest projects of Liberty’s Kitchen is serving breakfast, lunch, and a snack to 600 kids daily at New Orleans College Prep.

“Some kids didn’t like the food at first. And some children held up a baby carrot and asked what it was—they had never had carrots before,” said Omar Buckner, Program Manager. Liberty’s Kitchen staff and trainees serve schoolchildren fresh food with the ultimate goal of having this food come from local community farms and gardens. The food is also served on reusable ware as opposed to the disposable styrofoam used at the school previously, and is composted onsite.

If you are interested in a delicious meal that is made from fresh and local food and is also making the difference in the lives of young people in our community, go to Liberty’s Kitchen Cafe on 422 S. Broad St. And don’t forget to follow along the Green Games to see how well they do in the competition!