BY GABE HERMAN | Luv Michael, a nonprofit that produces granola and trains and employs people with autism, opened its first Manhattan commercial kitchen and learning center in Tribeca on Oct. 24.
The 3,000-square-foot space is at 42 Walker St., just below Canal Street, and also includes a small retail kiosk.
Luv Michael was founded in 2015 by Dr. Lisa Liberatore, who was inspired by her son Michael, who has autism and was unable to work after the age of 18. Luv Michael’s website notes that every year, over 50,000 people with autism age out of the school system and are unable to find meaningful employment.
Liberatore, who is also president of the company, wanted to create a place where Michael and others with autism could be trained and educated in the culinary field, with the goal of giving enough experience to then have jobs.
“Luv Michael Co. was never designed to be a charity or provide young autistic adults with ‘something to do,’” according to Liberatore. Rather, she said the mission has been to “provide a meaningful culinary vocation for the Autistic population and to produce exceptional gluten-free and natural products.”
The company employs ten “granologists,” all of whom have autism, and who work and train full-time, five days a week until they are ready to participate in the manufacturing process.
The employees learn through a five-point curriculum that was developed with a combination of autism education and culinary specialists. It’s also based partly on the New York State food handler’s license exam.
The granola is organic, nut-free and locally sourced. Luv Michael distributes its granola to a number of companies, including Starbucks, Fresh & Co., JetBlue, D’Agostino Supermarkets, and more than 60 other retailers in the New York City area. More information about the company can be found at luvmichael.com.