Community & Issue
Through a series of Youth Action Labs, AshEL Eldridge of the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) engaged high school students from California’s Central Coast in a process to educate their communities about the relationship between the food system, climate change, and health. The Central Coast Action Labs have been a place for students to talk about climate change issues that their community and families face on a daily basis, and how climate change impacts the food system and public health. Students identified how farmworkers are especially impacted by climate change because of the nature of their jobs. For example, exposure to dust in the fields increases due to drought; heat illnesses and death become more severe as temperatures rise; and food insecurity increases because of rising food prices. It is clear that income and race are statistical indicators that one may have a harder time “getting by” and weathering the storms brought on by climate change. From discussions at the Action Labs, the students recognized that farmworkers—their family and friends—are among the hardest workers in the U.S., and yet they have some of the lowest wages, the least job protections, and are some of the most vulnerable communities to the impacts of climate change.
Approach & Partnerships
The Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) educates and inspires young people to break through the challenge of climate change; first through its award winning multimedia presentation, and then by holding youth leadership development gatherings called Youth Action Labs. By holding Action Labs, ACE helps to develop the skills of high school students so they can be leaders and take action to address the impacts of climate change in their communities. Action Labs are open to motivated, creative high school students; as well as youth allies including teachers, parents, and local organizations. ACE’s goal by 2020 is to educate, inspire, and activate 12 million teens and young adults as part of a multigenerational force for carbon reduction and healthy communities.
Through these Action Labs, the students identified that they wanted to hold the first ever Farmworker Appreciation Day in Salinas, California on June 15th. Partnering with high school students from the Central Coast allowed ACE to play a supportive role, while the students took the lead on organizing the first Farmworker Appreciation Day for their community. The event was a collaborative effort, with organizations from around the state stepping up to support this historic day, including Building Healthy Communities, the Food Empowerment Project, Baktun 12, Alba Farms, Community Food and Justice Coalition, and local community leaders.
Community Solution to Climate Change Challenge
To connect the dots between food, climate, and health, AshEL collaborated with high school students in Watsonville, Salinas, Santa Cruz, and Gonzales to develop and implement their vision for a regional Follow the Food campaign.Recognizing that healthy and strong communities begin with appreciation for your community, the students organized a Central Coast Farmworker Appreciation Day as part of the campaign. Youth, farmworkers, community leaders, local organizations, and businesses joined together to celebrate farmworkers, while also creating a platform for the Central Coast community to raise their voices in support of the environmental and economic issues that affect the physical health of communities in the Central Coast region, and the the environment in which they work and live.
The event was an historic day for the City of Salinas because it was the city’s first ever Farmworker Appreciation day. The day not only provided the opportunity to give thanks to and honor those who put food on our plates; but also provided educational opportunities about the impacts of climate change on our health and well-being. While this one-day event brought people together to honor the farmworkers of California’s Central Coast, the students acknowledged that the organizing and community building cannot stop with this one event. The efforts must continue to grow. Many of the students and several of the organizations committed to continuing to work together on future Farmworker Appreciation Days and other collaborations that build and support a healthier, more resilient community.