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Nonprofit Sees Olive Oil Culture As a Way to Help Troubled Youths

My City Kitchen, a nonprofit organization focused on at-risk and low-income children, teens and families, cooperates with Enotre, a producer of extra virgin olive oil from Calabria.

Photo by Kendal Royer of Lou Jones Photography
May. 30, 2017
By Ylenia Granitto
Photo by Kendal Royer of Lou Jones Photography

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Our extra vir­gin olive oil Enotre is a blend of Car­olea and Nocel­lara Messi­nese from plants grown at an alti­tude of 600 meters in the shade of Sila moun­tains, in olive groves belonged to my father,” said Pietro Polizzi, adding that they usu­ally carry out the har­vest in early Octo­ber to get the best out of these vari­eties. Even though, I obtained great prod­uct also by har­vest­ing in early Novem­ber,” he pointed out.

I was happy and excited like a kid in a candy shop to be part of this amaz­ing process. I saw a way to help sup­port the My City Kitchen pro­gram.- Kashia Diaz Cave, My City Kitchen

Enotre’s notes of cut grass and tomato intrigued the chef and exec­u­tive direc­tor of Con­necti­cut-based My City Kitchen (MCK), Kashia Diaz Cave, who met Polizzi through a mutual friend dur­ing a work­ing visit in Italy.

When I got con­nected with Pietro, I was drawn by his pas­sion for his work with extra vir­gin olive oil,” Diaz Cave told Olive Oil Times. I asked him many ques­tions about his activ­ity and he answered all of them.” She felt the desire to dis­cover more about the pro­duc­tion of liq­uid gold: As a trained chef, she wanted to learn why it was con­sid­ered a supe­rior oil, and since her fam­ily has a his­tory of dia­betes and high blood pres­sure and she heard it may reduce the dis­ease risks, she wanted to expe­ri­ence its healthy aspects and all its other uses from food to beauty.

Kashia Diaz Cave (Kendal Royer of Lou Jones Photography)

Most impor­tantly, she was inter­ested in extra vir­gin olive oil as founder and chef at My City Kitchen, a not for profit orga­ni­za­tion that focuses on teach­ing at-risk and low-income chil­dren, teens and fam­i­lies how to cook healthy meals, under­stand­ing food pro­duc­tion and how to pre­pare it on a bud­get, thanks to sim­ple life skills and basic food edu­ca­tion.

First, I wanted to expe­ri­ence for myself every step of pro­duc­tion,” said Diaz Cave. So she got on a plane and flew to Cal­abria with her friend Andrea De Silva, a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher, where Polizzi took them to their olive groves.

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To tell our story is the best way to bring peo­ple closer to extra vir­gin olive oil,” said Polizzi. We bring them to our beau­ti­ful but steep olive groves and we har­vest by hand. This shows our pas­sion, and this is prob­a­bly what impressed Kashia when she chose to work with us.”

Diaz Cave admit­ted that she never real­ized how much labor goes into har­vest­ing the olives. Under­stand­ing the impor­tance of pick­ing, stor­ing to press­ing, what pure unfil­tered olive oil looks, smells and tastes like, it blew my mind. I was happy and excited like a kid in a candy shop to be part of this amaz­ing process.”

by Andrea De Silva

Dur­ing that visit, many projects emerged: To give her teen stu­dents the oppor­tu­nity to travel to Cal­abria and par­tic­i­pate in the har­vest as part of an edu­ca­tional pro­gram through My City Kitchen; to cre­ate a travel group to allow friends and fam­ily to expe­ri­ence the har­vest while vis­it­ing Italy; to col­lab­o­rate with the Polizzi fam­ily to pro­mote and sell their Enotre oil at MCK Gourmet Café, that recently opened.

I saw a way to help sup­port the My City Kitchen pro­gram,” Diaz Cave affirmed since an impor­tant part of My City Kitchen is edu­cat­ing stu­dents of a farm to table con­cept, work­ing with farm­ers, vis­it­ing local farms in the state, and giv­ing them an under­stand­ing of food pro­duc­tion.

Lives have changed for the bet­ter through MCK cook­ing pro­grams, like Alex who, at 14, was in trou­ble with the law. His pro­ba­tion offi­cer con­nected him with MCK as part of an edu­ca­tion and job readi­ness pro­gram. First, Alex wasn’t really excited about cook­ing, but Diaz Cave changed his out­look and three years later he is one of her best vol­un­teers.

My pas­sion is to help our inner city youth reach their full poten­tial, and if I can use my cook­ing to help, then that’s what I will do,” said Diaz Cave. Every­one deserve a chance for a brighter future.”


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