Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Weekend in the Crescent City Part 2: Social Action through Food

One thing I am happy to have seen during the conference in New Orleans took place in an area tourists rarely go - either the fun-seeking tourists or the "volun-tourists" coming down to do the important work of rebuilding after Katrina (there's still a lot to do). I went with some friends from grad school - way back when we were all in Riverside, California - to a block party in the 7th ward. Billed as "the largest gathering of anthropologists in the Seventh Ward—ever!" (and it probably was), it served as a small reception for a lot of small organizations within the American Anthropological Association. It was also a part of the Neighborhood Story Project, which uses neighborhood writers and photographers to tell the story of the culture and history of their neighborhoods.

The event was catered by the New Orleans-based Liberty's Kitchen. While it does a few things, those things all go back to their main goal, as stated on their website:

Liberty's Kitchen is an innovative, non-profit organization dedicated to transforming the lives of at-risk youth by building self-sufficiency and independent living in a supportive community where they learn life, social and employability skills in a culinary setting. Liberty’s Kitchen supports its programs with teaching-focused businesses: our working café and coffee house, catering business, and contract food services. These businesses are designed to give our students practical experience while helping to sustain our programs. We utilize private donations and community grants for the balance of our funding needs.
Among the ways they help at-risk youth: their coffee house - a real business where everything is made from scratch, and a school lunch program which benefits both needy children and the youths in their program who benefit from newly learned job skills.

Here's hoping that Liberty's Kitchen flourishes in New Orleans, and that more programs like this appear across the country!