June 13, 2020
Café Momentum is transformational. That seems strange to say about a restaurant, no matter how amazing the food may be. Nevertheless, at this restaurant in Dallas over 750 lives have been changed in just five years. At this restaurant, young men and women who are coming out of juvenile facilities participate in a 12-month paid post-release program. At this restaurant, at-risk youth receive the support they need to fulfill their potential.
They rotate through all of the restaurant’s stations, discover their greatest strengths, gain life skills, and learn how to be team members. The staff holistically addresses the situations that put these teens in incarceration in the first place. They assist with housing, healthcare, education, and hunger. In all, their case management process helps to create a holistic ecosystem of support that will provide the best resources to match each young person’s needs.
Their model is effective, transformative, and sustainable, but even the best models have to pivot during global pandemics. When COVID-19 hit, they had to close the restaurant, even though the restaurant and catering services were producing 30% of their revenue each month. First, they needed to make sure their interns would continue to be paid and Smart Shift agreed to cover the cost of those wages. Next, they needed to tackle a completely different problem.
People were calling them asking for advice about helping food insecure kids, who would be in jeopardy because schools had closed. Momentum Eats was their solution.
The staff and interns would start building food kits to fill that gap. They would have to quickly build out new safety protocols and change the restaurant layout, so it could function as an assembly line that was large enough to keep people six feet away from one another. Beyond the layout change, they needed to be able to check everyone’s temperatures, change gloves every hour, and ensure everyone had masks.
They pulled off this massive pivot and in the course of 14 weeks, they had provided 1,600 meal kits each week with 16 meals in each kit. That was over 350,000 meals to hungry kids in the Dallas area!
This feat required their team to raise a lot of money in a short amount of time, because they were spending $25,000 a week on food. Luckily, they had overwhelming support from the community, including a grant from TMF.
“Our TMF grant funds were used to pay staff salaries and purchase food,” Founder and CEO Chad Houser shared. “We needed those funds to fill the gap in a really unstable time. When TMF and other organizations in the larger community say they believe in the work you are doing through donations and grants, it is incredibly motivating. We are grateful to TMF, because they stepped up when we needed it most, and I think that is a testament to the spirit of the Methodist community.”