May 1, 2015

El Nido Family Centers, Councilmember Fuentes and Hugo's Restaurants Partner on Program

When the tomato, squash, and zucchini seeds were planted, when the rosemary, mint and cucumbers were picked, and when the carrots, green onions and lettuce were transformed into tasty appetizers, a community came together. By growing the food, harvesting it, and sharing the bounty, El Nido's clients made a connection to each other, to their families and to their neighborhood. 

El Nido's newest Youth Development Program, a Community Teaching Garden and Educational Kitchen was introduced to the public by Councilmember Felipe Fuentes of the 7th District on Thursday, April 16, 2015. Councilmember Fuentes hosted over 80 business and community leaders at the "Garden to Table" luncheon at the Pacoima Community Center featuring fruits and vegetables planted and harvested on site. The day was a success! ABC7 and the Daily News captured the energy of the day. 

"El Nido is revitalizing the economic corridor in Pacoima along Van Nuys Blvd and creating a vision for success," Councilmember Fuentes said. 

Liz Herrera, El Nido Executive Director, introduced Phase One of El Nido's Teaching Garden and Educational Kitchen as part of El Nido's 90th year celebration. "Our vision for what we hope to develop goes beyond teaching gardening and culinary arts. We plan to build a commercial kitchen and to eventually open a community café that will bring healthy foods from our garden to the community, and will serve as a job training program for at risk youth." 

With a partnership between the City of Los Angeles, El Nido and Hugo's Restaurants, a vision is turning into a reality. "Collaborating with El Nido and Hugo's Restaurants allows us to create opportunities for community members to have healthier lifestyles. Not only are we increasing access to healthy foods, we are also mentoring our youth. Together we are delivering on our shared mission to help all of our communities live happier, healthier, more successful lives," Councilmember Fuentes said. 

Emily and Tom Kaplan, owners of the very popular Hugo's Restaurants, along with their son Max, have generously given their time and shared their extensive knowledge of gardening, cooking and restaurant management to help make this program a success. "We all want to connect in some way, and a garden provides that connection," Emily said. 

Max runs the cooking program and will run the future community café.  Emily explained that El Nido's clients are learning life skills, as well as job skills, from the Garden. In addition to understanding nutritional information and gaining customer service skills, clients are exposed to what it takes to build a restaurant. They are also building self - confidence and envisioning a world of opportunities. "When someone is involved with their food, they become more interested in it," Emily explained. Sireni, an El Nido client, was happy with her experience in the kitchen and the skills she's acquired, including how to "speak professionally, supervise others, handle money and understand how important the customer is." Ronald, another El Nido client, said he was "learning to cook for his family and to be safe in the kitchen." 

El Nido has received valuable support for its Community Teaching Garden and thanked Councilmember Fuentes by dedicating a Ruby Red grapefruit tree in his honor. El Nido also thanked the generous support of the Michael J. Connell Foundation and Eddie Navarette, owner of FE Design and Consulting, for his donation to design the kitchen and help navigate the permit process.  

As Emily Kaplan explained, "A garden shows the renewal of a plant and of the human spirit. A garden teaches us that every day is a day for renewal and by preparing the soil, we prepare for the future."  Read More


El Nido Family Centers
10200 Sepulveda Boulevard, Suite 350
Mission Hills, CA 91345

"El Nido Family Centers provides counseling, parent education & service coordination to disadvantaged communities throughout LA County."