Long Island City-based nonprofit that employs adults with autism unveils new commercial kitchen

Photos courtesy of Luv Michael Co. and Gus Butera

A Long Island City-based granola company that employs individuals with autism is expanding its reach into Manhattan.

On Thursday, Oct. 24, Luv Michael Co. will celebrate the grand opening of its new commercial kitchen in Tribeca. Bayside resident, founder and president Dr. Lisa Libertore started the nonprofit in 2015 after noticing a lack of resources to prepare her son, whom Luv Michael is named after, and others with autism for real-world jobs.

From 6 to 8 p.m., visitors are welcome to tour the 3,000 square foot Luv Michael Kitchen and Learning Center at 42 Walker St.

“This grand opening event will include refreshments served, a tour of the facility and a special presentation on Luv Michael’s achievements and the new and exciting milestones yet to come. We encourage all interested in special needs innovation to come join us,” said Liberatore.

New Luv Michael commercial kitchen in Tribeca

According to the nonprofit, Luv Michael “granologists” will work and train five days a week in the new state-of-the-art commercial space until they are full prepared to take part in the manufacturing process. Autism education and culinary specialists developed Luv Micahel’s five-point curriculum, which is based, in part, on the New York state food handler’s license exam.

The training process not only allows individuals to work at Luv Michael but also to gain the skills and confidence to become employed elsewhere in the future.

“Luv Michael Co. was never designed to be a charity or provide young autistic adults with ‘something to do,'” Libertore said.

Instead, Luv Michael’s mission has always been to “provide a meaningful culinary vocation for the autistic population and to produce exceptional gluten-free and natural products.”

When QNS spoke with Libertore back in March, she said that those with autism are often obese due to a lack of exercise and using food as positive reinforcement, so she chose granola in order to encourage those with autism to pursue a healthier lifestyle.

Luv Michael currently employs 20 granologists who engage in food-centric classroom lessons and learn the 12-step lesson to make granola. Each bag is packaged and sold in more than 60 stores in the greater New York City area including Starbucks, Fresh & Co, D’Agostino Supermarkets, Gristedes Neighborhood Grocers and Wild by Nature.

The nonprofit is also replicating its expansion project at the Greek Orthodox Church of The Hamptons.

In 2017, Luv Michael was the winner of a JetBlue-sponsored competition for nonprofit food companies and earned the opportunity to have its granola distributed on U.S. domestic JetBlue flights.

To RSVP to the grand opening, contact Robert Paul by phone at 631-770-3840 or by email at rpaul@cahillstrategies.com.

Click here to find a location near you or to inquire about a monthly granola subscription. To learn more about speaking engagements and employment opportunities, visit the Luv Michael website.

See additional photos of the new kitchen below.

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