Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Youth Food Movement

Today, two articles came to my attention: one about a newly established American FoodCorps and the Youth Food Bill of Rights drafted at the Rooted in Community Leadership Summit.  The youth food movement is really inspiring.  Let's be honest, when kids stand up and demand more vegetables in their diet, they're understanding something that parents, the food industry and our government seem to have completely missed.  Large portions of the movement have originated in the inner city and among under privileged parts of the population which are really effected by absence of consideration for nutrition and health in food policy.  

The FoodCorps "places motivated young leaders in limited-resource communities for a year of public service."  FoodCorps was founded in 2009, but their first round of 50 volunteers is starting this summer, they are being trained to deliver nutrition education, establish school gardens and bring local food into school in order to cut obesity rates down to below 5% by 2050.  This Grist Article, "FoodCorps will teach kids, link farms and schools" highlights the investment FoodCorps is for our country with health-related obesity costs projected to reach $344 billion by 2018 according to Deb Eschmeyer, a FoodCorps founder.  Having graduated from college in May, and having panicked about my employment options for a couple months leading up to graduation, I can testify that these kinds of fellowship opportunities are in high demand in a time when 1 in 5 recent college grads is unemployed.  I got lucky in my transition between a youth food activist to a (kind of) professional food activist, but many grads need opportunities like GreenCorps.  

The Youth Food bill or Rights website explains: "The last farm bill was in 2008. There will be a new farm bill in 2012. We need a farm bill that prioritizes health and our next generation."  

On July 29, 2011 Youth Leaders from all across the nation came together at the 13th annual Rooted In Community Leadership Summit to create a Youth Food Bill of Rights. The Dignity Dialogues that took place to create this declaration inspired us to envision a Healthy Food System and enact Youth Food Bill of Rights. We have faced discrimination based on the color of our skin, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, socio-economic status. We envision a food system which will respect our identities while providing us equal access to these rights.We the youth are committed to these rights and believe that all people locally, nationally, and globally are entitled, regardless of , or any and all other forms of discrimination.
    We the Youth declare, state, and demand the following rights for all people around the world with an emphasis on equality.  We demand healthy, organic, local, humane, affordable, sustainable, and culturally appropriate food for all people and especially low income people of color and low income people in our communities that are the most oppressed and hurt by the current food system.
  1. We demand respect for mother earth, for the Food Justice and Food Sovereignty culture, and for the indigenous cultures that are working to establish their own autonomous food systems.  All must respect and protect the land that grows our food.
  2. We demand an end to the mistreatment of workers, farmers, animals, and the environment, that is caused by our current food system.
  3. We demand government funding for more nutrition education, and awareness in our communities, and for all communities.  Education on things such as, but not limited to, health, seasonal produce, and diet related diseases, farming, organic, sustainability, alternative methods of farming and any and all subjects that those communities demand.  People have the right to know what’s in their food, and to decide what to eat.
    We promote educating parents on nutrition and healthy lifestyles.
    Schools in our communities and all over the world must establish and be leaders with the tools and education that promote a healthy lifestyle. We recommend that schools recognize youth lead fitness programs as tools for success.
  4. We the youth demand more healthy food choices in our schools, and in schools all over the world.  We want vending machines out of schools unless they have healthy choices.  We need healthier school lunches that are implemented by schools with the ingredients decided on by the Youth. We demand composting in schools and in our neighborhoods.
  5. We the youth call for the termination of any and all Genetically Modified seeds, plants, and produce.  We want a policy from the governments all over the world that ends GMO’s, no exceptions.
  6.  We the youth absolutely don’t want any chemicals or pesticides in our food!
  7. We the Youth demand a ban on High Fructose Corn Syrup and other additives, and preservatives that are a detriment to our and our communities’ health.  This must be implemented by our government, and governments around the world.
  8. We demand food that is grown within a 100-mile radius of our homes. We don’t want food traveling thousands of miles using up fossil fuels to get to our homes.
  9. We the youth demand that everyone working in the food system must be treated with respect, treated fairly, and earn at the minimum, a just living wage. For all those that are working in the food system we demand a model like the Domestic Fair Trade Association to be implemented.
  10.  We demand the implementation of regulations from all governments and peoples on a global scale that prevent corporations from globalizing our food systems and our world as we recognize this as seriously costly to global and local human health. 
  11. We demand an end to the subsidy of cash crops, including corn and soy beans.  Rather than our tax dollars going to subsidies for industrial farming, we demand financial support for small organic farmers.
  12. We want a restructuring of the process of being certified organic and fair trade.  This must come from the people and from grassroots movements across the world.
  13. We the youth demand that a policy be enacted allowing for unused land to be made available for communities to farm and garden organically and sustainably.
  14. We believe farmers and all people should have the freedom to save their seed.  Any law that prevents this should be reversed; no law shall ever be made to prevent seed saving.
  15. We demand an end to industrial farming, which accounts for one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Tighter regulation and steps must be made that will decrease the amount of emissions every year.
  16. We demand more farmers’ markets instead of super markets.  The number of farmer’s markets must be increased every year until there are more farmers’ markets than super markets.
  17. We demand the continuation and respect of all cultural history and significance of food and agriculture.  We must work to restore, remember, and regain our food culture, practices, and traditions in farming.
  18. We want healthy options in corner stores while empowering the community to make better food choices.  We demand more jobs for youth to work with our communities to make this happen and help them control their food systems.
  19. We demand school assemblies to recruit more youth to promote food justice.  The continuation of the movement for Food Justice, Food Sovereignty and cultivation of future Youth leaders is necessary for feeding our youth, our nation and our world. 
Why are none of these principles represented in our 2008 Farm Bill? Can Congress begin to implement these basic elements of a fair, nutritious, environmental food system in the 2012 Farm Bill?

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