Youth Empowerment and Growing the Movement

By Jessy Gill, CFJC Research and Community Outreach Intern

On Monday January 23rd CFJC was privileged to present a lesson on workers in the food system to the 7th graders of Tehiyah Day School in El Cerrito. We covered the basics between small-scale agricultural practices and large-scale agricultural practices, including damages to the environment, major health concerns for food workers and consumers, and the average pay of a farm worker. In discussing Industrial Agriculture, the students were given insight into the realities of modern farming practices used globally. However, we were excited to see that many of these students already had a great understanding of the shape of our food system. Many understood the incredible distance our food is transported from sector to sector, and what was beneficial about small-scale agricultural practices. But what these students were most concerned about at the end of the lesson were the additives and abuses within our food system. They grew concerned when they learned that Big Ag corporations add pesticides and non-plant DNA into our seeds to grow our food. They were concerned about the companies’ abuses to their workers, some operating in slave-like conditions. And they were concerned with the income gap between farm and factory worker to CEO. The students left thankful for the surprising new knowledge they had acquired about worker’s conditions.

CFJC has been working to reach out to the youth in the Bay Area to ensure that everyone is included and informed of the Food Justice Movement. One of our first actions with youth was the creation and sponsorship of a youth track for the 15th Annual Food Justice Conference held in Oakland in November 2011. This track was created to involve Oakland High School students in the conference and the broader movement, with the goal to empower, inform, and build our future leaders. Thereafter, CFJC was invited to present a workshop on the Farm Bill to the Oakland High School students who are part of a newly formed Public Health Academy. Christina Spach and Lotta Chan usually present the workshop to community members who are interested in learning about the strong influence our government policies have on our food system. This was the first opportunity they had to present the Farm Bill workshop to students. Presenting to high school classes requires a different lesson plan from the normal workshop, taking into consideration age appropriateness and previous knowledge. I was able to attend this workshop, and aid in facilitation. The long workshop (two hours) made many students restless, but it was clear that part of their restlessness was also showing unease of the current industrial food system. One concern was directed at the government’s actions within the food system, and its lack of motivation to make any substantial change. We had the students create pie charts of how they felt the federal Farm Bill money should be distributed among programs. Most felt that crop insurance, conservation, organic agriculture, and energy needed more financial support within the Farm Bill if we want to make a difference in the future of our food.

CFJC was honored to discuss the various complexities of the food system with all of these youth. If you would like CFJC to engage your students on the state of our food system, the Farm Bill, or to just create a space where the class can hold a discussion about the food system, please email jgill@cafoodjustice.org and lchan@cafoodjustice.org.

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CFJC promotes the basic human right to healthy food while advancing social, agricultural, environmental and economic justice. Through advocacy, organizing and education, we collaborate with community-based efforts to create a sustainable food supply. We envision a food system in which all activities, from farm to table, are equitable, healthful, regenerative and community-driven.

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