Cheyenne River Youth Project kitchen goes mobile
EAGLE BUTTE – The Cheyenne River Youth Project, CRYP, is preparing to take its community kitchen on the road. On May 17, the nonprofit organization will be unveiling its Turtle Island Food & Coffee Truck to the public.
CRYP closed its Keya Cafe on April 2 to give its staff members the time they need to acquaint themselves with the truck and prepare the mobile kitchen for service. Executive Director Julie Garreau says her team decided it was a good time to make a shift away from a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
“The Covid pandemic has been a powerful teacher,” she reflected. “We understand the importance of being versatile, particularly in our social enterprises. We’ve dramatically grown our e-store operations to meet demand in the last 12 months, and we shifted gears from dining-in to takeout service at the Keya Cafe. In doing so, we quickly realized that we could offer better access for our community and more streamlined operations for our team if we focused our attention and resources on the food truck.”
The CRYP staff has seen heightened interest in indigenous foods, locally as well as nationally. Staff members are developing menus for the new Turtle Island Food & Coffee Truck that incorporate traditional Lakota ingredients. Garreau said they can’t wait to share them with the local community.
“Interest in Native foods seemed to skyrocket in tandem with the slow-food movement in recent years,” she said. “We started to see increased media attention on Native chefs like Sean Sherman, the Sioux Chef; and on Native-owned restaurants like Tocabe in Denver. In our own community, our Indigenous Foods & Cooking Internship for teens quickly became one of our most popular programs.”
As the Keya Cafe has done for nearly 10 years, the Turtle Island Food & Coffee Truck also will serve as a living classroom for teen interns, providing hands-on job training and experience for young people participating in the Indigenous Foods & Cooking and Social Enterprise tracks. It is simply a natural evolution of CRYP’s programming and services, Garreau said.
“Ever since we opened our doors in 1988, we’ve always let our community lead the way,” she explained. “We listen to our friends and neighbors, and to better meet their needs, we’re always willing to make adjustments in what we offer and how we offer it. We understand that evolution is both natural and necessary, and it opens the door to new opportunities. For us, the Turtle Island Food & Coffee Truck is an important part of this process, and we couldn’t possibly be more excited!”
After an initial soft opening period of several weeks on the CRYP campus, the Turtle Island Food & Coffee Truck will hit the road and operate from a variety of locations in the City of Eagle Butte.
“We’re grateful to USDA Rural Development, to the South Dakota Community Foundation for its South Dakota Fund grant, and to our good friend and RedCan artist Scribe, who created the brilliant design for the truck,” Garreau said. “You all helped make our vision a reality — and created something that will be an important and beloved asset to our community.”
To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its programs, and for information about making donations and volunteering, call (605) 964-8200 or visit www.lakotayouth.org. Stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, by following the youth project on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
The Cheyenne River Youth Project, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.
(Contact Heather Steinberger at heather(at)writeonllc.com)
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