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Youth Leaders Build Food Justice Movement in Connecticut
As a youth I can say that it’s not everyday your voice has the chance to be heard. But last year, a few other youth from Connecticut, along with myself got that chance. You see; we had become a part of something called the FJYC (Food Justice Youth Corps), a program that enabled high school youth along with AmeriCorps VISTAs to come together and discuss important food justice issues that affect us as youth. Starting in October we met to discuss food justice issues in Connecticut. Through these discussions, we came to the conclusion that school food is an important issue that we want to address because of its quality and the affect it has on youth throughout the school year. Through many weeks of planning that spanned through April, we began to design a project called the School Your Food Initiative (SYFI).
The School Your Food Initiative took place in April of 2015, and attracted over 80 people from around the state, as well as some outside guests from Buffalo, New York. One of SYFI’s main aspects was the panel, along with youth led discussions taking place after. The panel, which included people from all parts of the school food system, youth and adults alike, provided time for people to ask and answer questions regarding our topic, as well as discuss regulations, rules, and facts that would make our movement stronger. With our knowledge in hand, we then broke into youth facilitated groups and began to brainstorm what we could do to solve some of the issues surrounding school food.
Some of the ideas we came up with in our groups were to:
- Learn and educate yourself and others about the school food system
- Increase local and organic food in schools by adding school gardens and greenhouses
- Make school food more culturally diverse
- Increase the amount of time students get for lunch
- Make sure there is water in every cafeteria
- Increase student choice in menu planning
- Form committees of youth in school districts to talk to the board of education
These ideas of course, were just a few of the many ideas we have to move forward.
The FJYC also held a follow up event that took place in June of 2015. This was a small-scale event that provided time for us to debrief and discuss the action ideas, as well as think about our next steps in the school food movement. SYFI was a pretty big achievement for my fellow youth, our adult counterparts, and I. We continue to meet and think about our next steps as we move into the future.
Cheyenne Shannon is 15 years old and attends high school in Mansfield, CT. She is involved in Grow Windham and is also a part of the Food Justice Youth Corps’ Young Leaders Committee. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information regarding the FJYC.
Featured Image of Marantha Community Gardens courtesy of Grow Windham.