Empowering youth in the kitchen

For the past 20 years, Kids in the Hall has been helping at-risk youth chart a different course through employment in the restaurant industry. “All the youth we’re working with are coming out of the criminal justice system, safe houses, gangs, stuff like that, and we help them in outreach to develop connections and then we teach them employment and school readiness skills by working in our bistro,” explains program manager Calvin Avery.

Kids in the Hall is a program offered by non-profit organization E4C. It has served over 3000 youth through outreach; 800 youth have gone through Kids in the Halls’ employment training. In the past year alone, Kids in the Hall saw 60 kids graduate from high school through their partnership with Edmonton Catholic Schools.

Even if they don’t stay in the restaurant industry, Avery notes that their youth gain valuable life skills through the program. “There’s lots of skill sets you can develop and along the way they learn some skills that will help them through life, with their cooking and customer service and all that kind of stuff,” he says.

Avery, who has been with Kids in the Hall since its inception, will be speaking about the work that Kids in the Hall does on a panel at the upcoming Cultivating Connections event. Empowering at-risk youth may not be an immediate connection when people think about the food industry, so Avery hopes to make more people aware of their programming. He’s always happy, he says, to discuss the opportunities that their work offers to a group of people who might otherwise not have any other chances to overcome the difficulties life has thrown at them.

“The youth that are in our program haven’t chosen their lifestyle,” Avery explains. “They’ve been handed kind of a poor deck of hands, for probably 95 percent [of them]. There’s obviously youth that have just made some poor decisions, but these youth do not have families, per se, that are healthy for them.

“We know the program is effective because they always come back to us after they leave the program – it can be years later,” he explains. “They talk about what they’ve accomplished, invite us to their grads. If we haven’t seen them for three or four or five years, they want to come back and talk and share.”

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For more information on E4C and Kids in the Hall, visit their website here and here.

For more information and to register for Cultivating Connections, click here.

Tweet your food questions to #AskEFC and #Cultivate2017 or email them to info@edmontonfoodcouncil.org. Three regional mayors (including Edmonton’s Don Iveson) will be answering your questions at Let’s Talk Food, the free opening event of Cultivating Connections.

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