The Cowboys won’t be on the field for this Super Bowl but an important part of Dallas will have a presence. And this year, Café Momentum, an exceptional Dallas restaurant, will have a food truck outside State Farm Stadium in Arizona serving its signature chicken and biscuits made by youth impacted by the juvenile justice system.
Café Momentum is known for providing internships to at-risk and justice-involved youth to learn about the restaurant industry — including all the hard skills of a job and soft skills in life coaching, social skills, and development.
Chad Houser, the founder and CEO of Café Momentum, teamed up with the NFL to host a dinner ahead of the draft in 2019 and he’s kept the relationship going. In 2020, he created the Momentum Advisory Collective with programs also running in Nashville and Pittsburgh.
At this year’s Super Bowl, Café Momentum is working with the Stand Together Foundation and the Player’s Coalition to offer a free lunch to the media covering the game for two days, with appearances by former NFL players Shaun Alexander, Anquan Boldin, Dhani Jones, and criminal justice reform activist Alice Marie Johnson.
Houser credits Alexander, a Stand Together ambassador, as well as a biscuit-making class the former NFL player took with a group of at-risk youth from Dallas, with establishing a relationship with the football league. After a pop-up dinner at the 2020 Super Bowl, the groups staged pandemic-era virtual dinners through Zoom with former professional athletes and folks from all corners of the sports world — Houser lists off the WNBA, NFL, Major League Soccer, and Major League Lacrosse.
“For our young people, it provided opportunity for them to feel seen and heard, by individuals that have a rather large platform to share their voice,” Houser tells Eater Dallas. “And then for the athletes to provide an opportunity [for] our young people to educate them and inform their platform through them sharing their lived experience.”
This year the all-star team adds a new player to its bench: Johnson, the CEO of Taking Action for Good (TAG) and a Stand Together ambassador who was pardoned by then-president Donald Trump in 2018 after Kim Kardashian began lobbying in earnest on her behalf.
For Johnson, juvenile detention was a top priority. “The women [in jail] will always be praying to each other’s children... We know what happens when a parent goes to prison, it makes their children more susceptible because they really don’t have that foundation anymore. And a lot of their children ended up in juvenile detention centers,” Johnson says.
She was released from prison less than a month before she visited a juvenile detention center in Dallas to speak. During her visit, she inspired a young woman to become a future Café Momentum ambassador. Johnson says when she met her again at the 2020 Super Bowl — that young woman was working, serving the cafe’s chicken and biscuits. After that, Johnson gave an award to the same young lady, named Dee, for a culinary scholarship through the Stand Together Foundation.
Johnson grew up in a family that owned a restaurant in Mississippi, so the fact that the industry and food can impact lives is not news to her. “Not only do I love to cook, but I’m cooking and serving up hope and justice,” she says. That’s one of the many reasons I want to use my platform to help shape the scope of tomorrow’s leaders. They’re not discarded junk because they’ve made a mistake. These are our leaders, and many of them are learning skills they need to succeed right now at Café Momentum.”
Houser and the Momentum Advisory Collective have spent tie making inroads with the sports world and its collective platform opportunities, and now the media is the focus of this year’s Super Bowl outreach. The idea is to use the star power of these athletes and activists to engage the media who cover an event like the Super Bowl and engage them in meaningful conversation about juvenile justice reform.
Houser recounts the story of an ambassador working at a Café Momentum pop-up dinner in Nashville last August who was murdered a few hours after the event. “The last line of the story was police are investigating whether drugs were involved,” Houser says. “Guess what, they weren’t. It completely diminished that young man’s life in one sentence, they stereotyped — and for his family to read that.”
“Some programs and opportunities to allow our youth to explain to media why those words matter, and that their lives matter,” Houser says. “And then, when they’re writing a story, when they think is just a throwaway line is something that is critical.”