According to the Preamble of the Constitution of the World Health Organization “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Simply put, health is the ability to thrive not just to survive.
For many formerly incarcerated or proven at-risk youth, even a short period of confinement dramatically affects their ability to thrive outside incarceration. These youth have little hope of securing employment, have limited work skills and few resources available to them. Because the lack of resources and community support, many of these youth return to destructive habits and cycle through the court system. According to the Justice Policy Institute, we all pay the price for recidivism: it costs more (and taxpayers foot the bill) to send a teenager to a correctional institution than it does to put them through a local, private Big 10 college like Northwestern University.
In May 2012, Curt’s Café in Evanston, IL opened for business with the mission of providing healthy and affordable meals for the community-at-large while at the same time providing the job and life skills formerly incarcerated or proven-risk male youth (between the ages of 16 and 22) needed to be successful in the work place.
Curt’s Café proposed to work with these youth, by introducing them to four disciplines:
L – Life Skills such as opening a bank account, decision-making, job readiness, making healthy food choices, and fitness
I – Intellectual Skills such as English, math and computer literacy
F – Food Service Skills in the kitchen, as baristas, counter service, and in food preparation
E – Experiential Skills by providing mentors to support the students outside the Café
To get the word out in the community, Curt’s Café first defined their target audience as Evanston residents (2 mile radius of the restaurant), men and women age 35 and older that were health conscious, concerned about their community and were socially aware. They then mounted a multi-media campaign amplifying their message and targeting, as Gladwell puts it in The Tipping Point, “connectors” within the target audience.
Curt’s Café social media campaign is anchored around three major platforms using tag lines and attractive, meaningful visual images reflecting their brand that “everyone’s comfortable here” and “dine with a purpose” while promoting social awareness about the Curt’s Café mission. The three major platforms include:
I first learned about Curt’s Café through Facebook and traditional media. I made a point of supporting them by not only eating at the Café but hiring them to cater events with various organizations that I was involved with in the community. We found the food quality, price and service to be comparable to the neighborhood competition. The value added benefit of the mission of Curt’s Café made supporting them as a catering choice even more attractive.
Because of their successful media campaign Curt’s Café has established a loyal community following and support for their greater mission of providing the job and life skills formerly incarcerated or proven-risk Evanston youth. Recently, Curt’s Café opened their second location in Evanston dedicated to employing and training at-risk female youth as well as teen mothers. In August 2015 Curt’s Café and chef John des Rosiers will launch La Taqueria, a not-for-profit Mexican restaurant providing another opportunity to “dine with purpose” in Evanston.
“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him…
the people who give you their food give you their heart.”
Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948.
Gladwell, M. (2000). The tipping point: How little things can make a big difference. Boston: Little, Brown.