Omaha’s Meals Hub takes excellent care of the neighborhood
Located in the historic district of Florence is No More Empty Pots, a strategic non-profit food center focused on creating positive outcomes for the community through training for workers and workers, reducing food waste, creating accessible healthy food, and engaging entrepreneurs through business development programs promote.
The reader spoke to Talia McGill, director of strategic communications at NMEP, about the nonprofit’s work in the ward, its diverse programs for creating food security, and what Omahans can do to advance the mission.
Coffee to change what you can, flexibility to work with what you can’t
A rich latte from No More Empty Cups satisfies the soul and warms the heart.
NMEP acts as an umbrella organization with five main programs: a culinary training program for workers, a program for food business owners, community education, food distribution and Cups Café.
The Cups Café consists of two neighborhood cafés: one at the headquarters in Florence and the other in Little Italy. Recently, the Little Italy cafe was repurposed as a community event center, as McGill said one function room would be more useful than another coffee house. “That could always change in the future,” she added. “No More Empty Pots follows current needs. But just because there is a way now doesn’t necessarily mean it will be that way forever. “
The Cups Café location in Florence is open Tuesday through Saturday and is often staffed by students participating in the culinary workforce training program. McGill said this gives them the opportunity to work on their skills in an encouraging environment. They serve specialty coffees and seasonal groceries made in-house or by the food business owners who rent kitchen space. The café seats 14 to 16 people and offers free WiFi and plenty of power outlets for guests who need to charge their phones and laptops. It also offers a conference room that can be booked online.
The café menu features many drink options, including homemade sugar cane horchata, Italian cream soda, Frankly Juiced specialty juices, and specialty lattes. The pastry shop is filled with homemade shortbread, crum cakes bakery muffins, Carter & Rye pies, and hot menu items like pan y leches empanadas and homemade brioche breakfast rolls with O’tillie pork & pantry sausage.
The lattes are poured hot and hold a tight wobble, indicating a calming richness to come. The lemon and rosemary shortbread looks simple, but has a fine balance between sweet lemon and hearty rosemary. Pan y Leches beef and onion empanadas have a hearty crust and a hearty stomach-warming filling that goes well with the simple greens that go with it. The greens are decorated with a tasty, homemade Dijon vinaigrette that should be sold in stores everywhere.
Pan Y Leche beef and onion empanada is a tasty way to change your day
The most tempting menu items are the Carter & Rye hot bags. In particular the Cubano Hot Pocket. Tender, shredded pork with the perfect balance of cucumber and mustard, all filled in buttery, hot pocket batter. The edges are crisp and flaky and will leave marks of your meal on your plate, shirt and lap. It’s the perfection of Midwestern comfort food that was once only available at Sunday farmers’ markets and can now be devoured Tuesday through Saturday (as long as you get there before they sell out).
Carter and Rye’s Cubano Hand Pie is a handy meal
Prepared for success
NEMP’s culinary staff training program consists of a 15-week course to prepare individuals for the workforce. Upon graduation, students receive help finding careers in the food industry. Each training group usually consists of 6-8 people, which keeps the cohort small enough that each member receives adequate attention. The training starts with 10 weeks focusing on learning skills such as public speaking, resume creation and of course, cooking. The students continue their final weeks of training at an affiliated internship location. Upon completion of the program, students will receive a ServSafe certificate, a chef’s coat, and a knife roll set. With these gifts and the certificate she earned, McGill said there should be nothing stopping students from starting their new careers.
The food business entrepreneur program focuses on helping future restaurateurs and caterers by providing them with mentoring and community, as well as affordable commercial kitchen space for rent. Currently, 15 food companies share the kitchen area. Food business operators can also sell their products at a sponsored farmers market stall. Another large part of this program brings mentors together with food entrepreneurs to help them develop business plans and participate in the Wells Fargo Entrepreneurship Invitational, a pitch competition where they can earn seed money for their businesses.
No More Empty Pots offers culinary and horticultural education to the public as part of its Community Education program. Culinary training may include visiting the kitchen to learn how to cook or seeing a demonstration within the community. Gardening education focuses on learning where food comes from, how to care for plants, and how to harvest and use products grown in gardens. This conveniently flows into the culinary education program. McGill said church building has historically focused primarily on youth, but will also provide more services to adults and seniors.
The Food Hub is about so much more than full bellies
The focus of the food distribution program is on providing healthy products, ready meals and food education to the community. This is done through two distribution programs: the distribution of the cart in the community, which is a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscription, and the distribution of the harvest in the community, which is a ready-made meal program for youth, seniors and families with unsafe diets. McGill said these programs have evolved and will add more to the community as the organization grows.
McGill and the staff at No More Empty Pots are currently developing their seasonal calendar to share with the community. This gives residents an opportunity to get more involved by taking courses or volunteering to teach workshops for the public. For a future training session, McGill said No More Empty Pots will partner with Facebook and focus on helping people develop their Facebook business skills while learning how to build a successful following online.
Forward and up
Other ideas for the future, according to McGill, include opening up the rooftop garden garden to the public for additional cafe seating, making their own branded jams and mustard for sale, and using the space as a taste testing center to provide feedback to their food business owners.
McGill shared three ways Omahan’s No More Empty Pots can support and give back to their community.
“Visit the room first and share it with your friends,” she said. “Eating in the Cups Café helps support local farmers and food business owners. Second, get involved in the North Omaha community and gather together … Third, encourage low-income individuals and families to receive CSA and convenience foods so that the community can support them. “
McGill said that No More Empty Pots was successful because it doesn’t offer charity and teach the community how to fish.
“We help share skills, resources and opportunities,” she said. She encourages people to put the No More Empty Pots mission into practice “by gardening at home, eating more fruits and vegetables from local farmers, and eating better. It all creates a better community. “