Crescent City Café Is on a Mission To Help Build Community Through Serving Breakfast to Those in Need

Crescent City Café
Photo source: Crescent City Café

In New Orleans, many struggle with food insecurity. One local organization is working to help solve that problem and give people a place where they can enjoy a good meal, make connections, and be a part of a community.

Crescent City Café is a local volunteer organization whose mission is to serve breakfast to the unhoused, underserved, and food insecure with dignity. Founded in 2009, the organization distributes meals at Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church, 3900 St. Charles Ave., on the first and third Saturday of every month from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. The café welcomes anyone in need of a meal, including the elderly and college students.

Adelle Bergman Valenti has been the executive director of Crescent City Café since 2016. Bergman Valenti is from Oklahoma and came to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to do relief work. Upon moving to the city permanently, she began volunteering at Crescent City Café in 2010.

“Our focus is on food insecure, low income, unhoused people, and anyone who needs to come in and enjoy a good breakfast,” Bergman Valenti said. “We want to come together to share a community and connect. It’s a place of compassion where people experience joy and get to know their community.”

The mission of Crescent City Café is threefold.

Bergman Valenti explained, “We want people to recognize that food insecurity or homelessness doesn’t define a person. We want to bring together volunteers and give people, especially young people, a way to give back to their community. And we want to serve dignified meals, restaurant style, to anyone in need.”

The organization takes over the hall of Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church and turns it into a full-service restaurant complete with linen tablecloths, rolled silverware, and nice plates and cups. Visitors are greeted at the door by a host, seated, and given two choices for breakfast. 

The food is cooked and served by volunteers and includes breakfast staples such as eggs, pancakes, bacon, mixed fruit, and biscuits and gravy, and specialty items such as shrimp and grits, breakfast tacos with pickles, onions, and salsa crema verde, maple blueberry sausage, and tater tot casserole. Food is plentiful and no matter when guests visit the café, they are guaranteed a meal; this is something that Bergman Valenti takes pride in.

“At some other places, many of our guests might get donated breakfasts, so we want to provide a really good breakfast that you and I would enjoy at a brunch restaurant,” she said. “It’s about creating a real restaurant meal to anyone who needs it. We have never had to turn anyone away because we didn’t have a meal for them.”

Photo source: Crescent City Café

Anyone over 18 is welcome to volunteer, and positions include host, server, busser, cook, line prep, and dishwasher. The organization hosts 25 to 30 volunteers for every café, ranging from people who have been volunteering for years to those new to the organization. 

To create a sense of community with all who visit, volunteers eat breakfast with guests. Bergman Valenti explained that it’s all a part of Crescent City Café’s mission of serving those in need with dignity.

“It sends the message that no matter where you are financially, we are all one together and everyone has worth,” she said. “A big part of dignity isn’t just providing food, but sitting with someone and speaking with them and making a connection. We use the food as an excuse to create a community.” 

Crescent City Café is currently working towards a “pay what you can” café that would be open to the public five to six days a week and serve anyone who wants a good breakfast.

Photo source: Crescent City Café

“Our goal would be to be in an actual restaurant space and serve anyone who walks in the door,” Bergman Valenti said. “People could donate a few dollars for a meal or even volunteer to work with us. It would move the café from a pop up into an actual restaurant system where everyone can be served.”

To date, Crescent City Café has logged 25,000 volunteer hours and has served over 19,000 meals. Bergman Valenti said she hopes to hit the 20,000 meals served mark by the end of the year or the beginning of next year.

If you cannot volunteer but still want to support Crescent City Café, you can buy a gift item from their Amazon wish list here.

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