Berkeley Youth Alternatives Garden Program
I don’t know about you, but as a kid, I took for granted the fresh food my mom set down in front of me each day. Raised with the chance to spend lots of time in rural settings, I had not been aware that many people in urban communities do not have access to fresh local produce, let alone the opportunity to try their hand at growing it for themselves.
Food insecurity is a major barrier to those navigating social injustice and poverty in urban centres. It’s easy to take for granted our access to healthy nutritious food when popping by a farmers market or the local grocery before dinner, but for some families, poverty and location makes it difficult to access nutritious, organic foods. In California, however, Berkeley Youth Alternatives (BYA) is making amazing headway in addressing this inequity in creative ways through their Youth Garden Program.
The BYA Youth Garden Program is literally feeding their community while creating unique learning opportunities for the youth they serve on their ½ acre community garden and ⅙ acre community orchard. Not just concerned with nutrition; BYA’s holistic program recognizes and utilizes the many opportunities community gardens can provide for therapy, learning, recreation and relationship building.
One distinctive aspect of the project is their youth internship program in which a youth is hired part time for eight weeks as a garden assistant. The internship offers employed youth the chance to build valuable leadership skills work experience while learning about food justice and nutrition. Youth employed by BYA can experience in the direct benefits of their work, as they witness produce they grow make its way from the ground to their friends’ and families tables.
Despite the program’s accomplishments, major budget cuts have forced BYA to look for alternate funding sources to run the Youth Garden Program. That’s where BYA’s Start Some Good fundraising campaign, which runs until July 31, comes in. All funds raised will go towards the Youth Garden Program, enabling BYA to hire one youth intern part time for the remainder of the summer. If they reach their five thousand dollar goal, BYA will even have the opportunity to send a few deserving interns to the Rooted in Community National Youth & Food Justice Conference in Philadelphia, PA! Click here to support their campaign, and help BYA to keep growing good food and confident young leaders this summer!
Jasmine Nielsen is the volunteer a fourth year student at the University of Victoria majoring in Women’s Studies and Environmental studies. Jasmine is co-founder of Art for A Start, and is also involved with several not for profits, currently working as the volunteer coordinator for GlobalFest, and sitting on the board of Mosqoy: Sacred Valley Youth Fund and the Q’ente Textile Revitalization Society. You can follow Jasmine on twitter @jasmineshea.