Homeboy Industries provides hope, training, and support to formerly gang-involved and recently incarcerated men and women, allowing them to redirect their lives and become contributing members of our community. Our free programs - including counseling, education, tattoo removal, job training, and placement - help these young men and women to become leaders in their families and communities.
A distinctive feature of Homeboy Industries is its social enterprises, where the most difficult to place individuals are hired in transitional jobs. This provides them a safe, supportive environment in which to learn concrete and soft job skills while building their resumes and experience. Former rivals soon find themselves working together, experiencing true friendship in place of gang life. One of our four businesses is the Homegirl Cafe, dedicated to training and empowering female clients comprehensively in the restaurant industry with a focus on healthy, green communities.
The Homegirl Cafe garden project is part of our one-year training program for high-risk and gang-involved women in Los Angeles. Our on-site garden provides organic produce for our Cafe, where our women learn fundamental work readiness skills. Our community gardens are a way to connect with our local community and provide education to low-income families, and they give our Homegirls an opportunity to learn competitive skills that will make them employable in a green restaurant or urban farming business, and help them to enact healthy eating and growing strategies in their own homes. Women will receive job training at the Homegirl Cafe and receive services that will lead to long-term placement, especially in growing green restaurant/urban farming industries. In addition, female leads who have now completed our training program will serve as mentors and garden trainers to our new trainees.
The Homegirl Community Gardens will serve as a resource for young women to improve their family health, both by them the opportunity to gain essential skills that will lead to employment and by educating them on healthy eating strategies to enact in their own homes. Women in the program will serve as mentors and educators in the community, teaching low-income families and children about the benefits of homegrown, healthy food.
A distinctive feature of Homeboy Industries is its social enterprises, where the most difficult to place individuals are hired in transitional jobs. From the Homeboy Bakery to Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery, our social enterprises provide safe spaces to develop important job skills while also adjusting to a lifestyle of change and leadership. Former rivals soon find themselves working together, experiencing true friendship in place of gang life. One of our social enterprises is the Homegirl Cafe, which provides comprehensive training in the restaurant and urban farming industries, with wrap-around support services for our primarily female staff. The cafe employes primarily females because of the specific issues that these young women face, from domestic violence to single parenthood.
The Homegirl Gardens provide about 30% of the produce for the cafe, and also serve as a teaching and learning space for our community. Check out this article from Garden Design Magazine featuring our trainee Janet! http://www.gardendesign.com/ideas/urban-farming-at-the-homegirl-cafe
We currently grow a number of high quality seasonal vegetables, culinary herbs and teas at the Homegirl Mini Farm, Solano Gardens, FarmLab, and a school garden at Dolores mission, where Homegirls lead weekly gardening classes with elementary school students. It is our goal to provide as much as 50% of the bulk produce and herbs used by Homegirl Café & Catering and Homeboy Bakery by the end of this training year! By composting almost 100% of our food waste, using only vegetable based plastics, unbleached paper products and by constantly improving our recycling program, we aim to be a leader in sustainable restaurant practices and the evolving urban food movement.
Our vision is strengthened by community partners including Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, Metabolic Studio, Farmworks LA, Milagro-Allegro Community Garden, Dolores Mission Elementary School, Urban Farming, Woolly Pockets and the UC Cooperative Extension. The goals of implementing an extensive urban farming program as an introduction to café employment are to: 1. Provide a solid connection between the process of growing food and restaurant operations. 2. Increase organic produce production and sustainability for Homegirl Café and Catering and Homeboy Bakery. 3. Enhance culinary practices and café fare through seasonal menu planning. 4. Improve the nutritional habits of employees and their families through garden-based curriculum and agriculture education. 5. Collaborate with local schools to enhance learning and healthy habits through garden education. 6. Utilize horticulture therapy as a means of healthy development and successful reintegration during the parole or probationary period. 7. Establish a viable business and revenue source through garden retail products, edible landscaping and garden maintenance. 8. Provide agricultural job training that can be connected to long term ‘green job’ employment opportunities. 9. Increase the representation of underserved communities in the local food movement and regional food jobs.
10. Play a role in expanding awareness of urban food production for Los Angeles residents through gardening workshops, cooking demonstrations, farm to table events, backyard grower circles and edible landscaping services. Addressing larger issues of poverty, grocery deserts and obesity is an important component of our urban agriculture effort. As a contributing member of the LA Food Policy Task Force working group, Homegirl Café is constantly seeking ways improve access to local, organic and healthy food for all. Concretely, we seek to empower vulnerable communities through gardening workshops, cooking demonstrations and resources for at risk communities.
Over the past three years, the Homegirl Café has experienced significant growth and success, with more than 40 young men and women now employed as trainees or as leaders in the café and urban farms. As our employees recognize their strengths and gain experience, many move to “trainer” positions where they are supervisors and mentors for our trainees. There are currently twelve of these female leads in the café. Retention in the café has been consistently over 70%, compared to a 75% recidivism rate for most young offenders in California, and several young men and women have moved to outside employment. The café and its training program, led by Chef Pati Zarate and managers Erika Cuellar and Shannon Smith, have become a model for Homeboy’s other social enterprises. Homegirl Café has adopted a motto that applies not only to the high quality food that we serve, but also to our approach to mentoring young women as they work toward a better life: “Grow. Prep. Serve.” Through education about the origins of fresh food, organic food production, composting and local food, we empower our trainees to seek healthy food resources in their own communities as well as encourage their friends and families to join them. As we continue to grow, we look to new initiatives that will strengthen the café and the young people who work within it