What does food justice and youth empowerment look like? Check this out! With the cooperation of Live Real, Rooted in Community, Veggielution, Root Down LA, Project EAT, Community Services Unlimited, Pie Ranch, and apprentices from the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, more than 100 youth from Los Angeles and the Bay Area convened last month at the Santa Cruz, CA, farm of 2012 Harry Chapin Self-Reliance Award winner Food What?! for Youth Day. The day was full of hands on activities where youth learned about and discussed food, the environment, justice and empowerment – capped off by sharing delicious, nutritious food! Activities included milking a goat, harvesting honey, making pizza, tea, ice-cream, or brownies (baked in a solar oven, of course), exploring poetry, theater, gardening and more! Youth Day participants learned, thought, built new relationships and had a lot of fun together! Read more on the great day here.
“Food, What?!” makes me smile. The name, the place, the people in it…it takes just a millisecond of thinking about any combination of those things to break a big grin across my face!
I got to spend a day with the FoodWhat?! crew in Santa Cruz a few weeks ago- turning soil for the potato rows on their farm, chopping fresh beats and spinach in the outdoor kitchen, and gathering under the tent to learn the tricks of smart budgeting for future goals. It was a pretty perfect day- Santa Cruz was showing off its best sunshine, the homemade spanikopita was delicious, and we were laughing together and learning real skills at the same time.
The youth in the spring session at FoodWhat?! get to do this every week for three months. They’re using food (growing, harvesting, selling, cooking, eating) as a way to explore and practice social justice, youth empowerment, and job skill development. Some of them will stay on for another few months as Summer Apprentices and dig even deeper, while learning to become leaders in their own communities. Based on the crew I got to spend the day with, there’s no doubt FoodWhat?! alumni are out there all year round bringing their knowledge and growing skills back to their own communities, and leading the way for positive change. It makes me smile just thinking about it!
On a recent visit to South Los Angeles, WhyHunger team Lorrie Clevenger and Brooke Smith made a stop at the St. John’s market stand managed by Community Services Unlimited (CSU). Lawrence DeFreitas, CSU’s youth and volunteer coordinator, was selling fresh local produce and gave us his thoughts on how corner market stands like this one make an impact on the neighborhood:
“I think it’s important work because I think more and more people need to see examples of, not necessarily of giving back to the community, but putting the community in a place in which it can sustain itself. A community that can sustain itself whether that is through food, education or whatever if it’s sustainable it can control its own goals, community goals. When a community is able to make decisions about what youth learn in the community, about its education, about its food system it’s more in control of where it’s going to go.”