Thursday, January 8, 2015

2014 FoodWhat Community Educator Workshop Series

2014 Community Educator Program

After a few days of training, our 2014 FoodWhat youth Community Educators -- Miguel Zarate, Uriel Reyes and Vicky Pozos-Bernal -- were ready to kick off our three-week workshop series! This year, FoodWhat Community Educators led weekly peer-to-peer workshops in eight classes across the county, including: Pajaro Valley High School, YES School, Watsonville Community and Jovenes Sanos.

Week One

Week One, Miguel dropped knowledge about the sugar content in popular beverages, label-reading and youth dollar power in, "What You Drink, What You Think."

After an initial brainstorm around what processed sugar does to your body, youth were asked to identify the amount of sugar in a can of Arizona Iced Tea. Not as easy as it sounds! Most were tricked into thinking the sugar content was much less than it actually is because of the multiple servings per can. Little sneaky, eh? 

Miguel raised the question of why a company may split sugar content into three servings, when most of us acknowledged that we consume a can of Arizona in one sitting.

Youth were then given an easy equation to calculate how many teaspoons of sugar are contained in beverages and invited to come up and try this out on some popular drinks. Once they figured out the teaspoons of sugar, we counted them out into a clear glass. Check out how much sugar is in a Coke...intense!

After Rockstar and Coke, we asked youth to calculate the processed sugar content of a "Juice Squeeze." Surprise! After examining the ingredient list, we found no processed sugar. It contains 100% natural sugar from fruit! Miguel told us our bodies need natural sugars to function and offered tastes of some yummy and affordable real fruit beverages.

Miguel concluded the workshop by asking youth "how many of you vote?" Although there were very few raised hands, Miguel suggested that we all vote, every day; that each time we spend a dollar, we are voting for something. "That's our power as youth!"

Week Two

Week Two featured, "Food As Activism." After a quick icebreaker, Uriel offered up a definition of food justice and told the class why it matters to him personally -- he sees a lot of obesity in Watsonville and wants to change the quality of school lunch so his two younger brothers have access to healthier food on a daily basis.  

He then invited us to do a group brainstorm of the following questions: What is activism? Who are famous activists you know about? What are issues people fight for? 

This led into the main activity, where youth broke into groups and were given a sheet containing eight short stories about food activism or activism using food. Groups were assigned a story and asked to prepare three key points to share with the class as a whole -- What were people in the story fighting for? What action(s) did they take? What personal thoughts or reactions do you have to the story? 

After hearing profound stories of activism from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to the Black Panthers to Ghandi, Uriel challenged us to think about the issues that make us want to be activists. 

What do YOU care about? What are YOU going to take action on?    

Week Three

In our final week, veteran Community Educator and FoodWhat Alumni, Vicky Pozos-Bernal, talked to groups about the food system in "Trace Your Taco," examining a Taco Bell taco vs. a real food taco.  

She immediately got student's attention by passing around a Taco Bell taco. We were asked to list the components of the taco. One by one, Vicky talked about where and how the majority of these products in the U.S. are sourced for the fast food industry. She asked students how far these products travel in order to reach a Taco Bell in Santa Cruz County. 

Here's a snapshot of what we learned:

The tortilla: most corn in the U.S. is grown in the MidWest Corn Belt region. Most is genetically modified, meaning chemicals are injected into the seed. The seed then grows with the poisons in it. It travels 1,500 miles to the Taco Bell in Santa Cruz County. 

The meat: cows come from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), most likely in Texas. Meat travels about 1,200 miles to reach the Taco Bell in Santa Cruz County. In CAFOs, cows are crammed in so tightly they can hardly move around. They stand in their own feces all day. In order to avoid sickness under these conditions they are pumped full of antibiotics, whether sick or not. Youth were invited to come forward and act-out these conditions! 

Vicky passed out actual pictures of CAFOs, as well as a list of ingredients contained in Taco Bell's "beef" mixture. Most youth had an easy time identifying 3-4 ingredients they put in the ground beef they make at home. Guess how many were contained in Taco Bell "beef"? 27 ingredients!!! Only 36% real meat! Whoa.

The tomatoes: 80% of tomatoes grown for the fast food industry come from Immokalee, Florida. Farmworkers are paid .50 cents per 32lb bucket of tomatoes. This means they must harvest 150 32lb buckets of tomatoes per day in order to make minimum wage. As if this weren't hard enough, farmworkers are also at great risk of ingesting chemicals from pesticides used to keep insects off the tomatoes. Tomatoes travel a whopping 3,000 miles from Florida to Santa Cruz County! Somewhere along the way, they are artificially "ripened" with chemicals. 
This may all seem rather discouraging...BUT WAIT...Vicky tells youth there's an alternative to this Industrial Conventional Food System. She then presented a "Real Food System," by offering youth a delicious taco made by FoodWhat from locally-sourced ingredients! The ingredients in this taco travelled less than 200 miles, were grown organically without pesticides, and the workers were paid well and treated with respect! So which would you choose?

The 2014 workshop series provided an awesome opportunity to reach more students with FoodWhat-style workshops, as well as a major growth opportunity for our Community Educators to step up as leaders. Many thanks to Miguel, Uriel and Vicky, and to all the students and teachers that participated in the workshop series!   


Monday, November 24, 2014

Food, What?! Goes On the Road!

 This fall, our crew had some awesome opportunities to connect with other youth, adult allies and community change-agents from around our region and the world! 


Thanks to generous scholarships from the Bioneers Youth Leadership Program, nine of our crew members were able to attend the Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, October 17-19. This was an eye-opening and inspirational experience for all of us and offered a unique opportunity to build deeper relationships with each other and others in our region.   

"My favorite part about the conference was getting to meet so many different youth from all around California, as well as the world. Meeting youth from programs like Urban Tilth, United Roots, Ceres Community, Urban Campesino, and how they are making a difference and trying to change their communities for the better."     ~ Thairie

"This year Bioneers has really affected my life and the way I work in the social justice movement. The two workshops that affected me the most were the Healing for Women of Color Through Art and the Youth of Color workshops. They helped me to relight a spark in me that has been slowly going out."    ~ Vicky

"Whenever I left the conference, I always felt so inspired. It made me feel like I can change the world."  ~ Aakash  

"Coming out of Bioneers, I feel ready to go and fight the battle at hand. It won't be easy or short, but I will make change. It's not for me or my friends, it's for those who come after me."       ~ Uriel

"I must say, it was perhaps the most eye-opening and fun experience in my adolescence."       ~ Lucas

"It was beautiful to find adults and having an equal stage and having an opportunity as a young person. I loved the youth tent and the magical energy of us young people. We discussed our passions and struggles; we all had inputs. This experience will take me onward to my passions and struggle. I'm happy to be living in a world that believes in change."  ~ Miguel

When we weren't listening to ground-breaking leaders drop knowledge -- such as 13-year old indigenous environmental activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez of Earth Guardians or Indigenous rights revolutionary Clayton Thomas-Muller of Idle No More -- or jammin' to the lyrical genius of artists like Climbing PoeTree, we were connecting and cooking (FoodWhat style!) around a campfire at China Camp State Park. We had such a great time!
Art As Activism
 Four of our crew -- Lucas, Miguel, Thairie and Roanna -- also attended Bioneers' Just Us For Food Justice youth program before the start of the main conference. This day brought together more than thirty youth and adult allies from food and farming projects around the Bay Area to meet, share, learn, develop leadership skills and work together. The day was facilitated by Gerardo and Maya of Rooted in Community and kindly hosted by the Ceres Project, a youth empowerment program that provides healthy meals to people in the community with serious illnesses.     


On October 21st, we bounced to San Francisco to check out the Brower Youth Awards! at the beautiful Nourse Theatre. 

What an inspiration to hear the six young environmental leaders from around the country tell the stories of the incredible work they're doing, making strides in the environmental movement. From building community resilience through the creation of solar-powered infrastructure in Highland Park, Michigan to creating a model for sustainable food security in Upper Mustang, Nepal, these young leaders blew us away! Check out more of their stories here.

A big Food, What?! shout-out to all the 2014 Brower Youth Awardees!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

 Meet the 2014 "Food, What?!" Fall Crew

We are wrapping up an amazing fall season of events, activities, FoodWhat micro-businesses and fall leadership jobs.  In the Fall Program, the youth step up their leadership skills, solidify their professionalism, and take on assistant managing one of the FoodWhat projects or businesses. The Fall Program is when the youth put their training from the spring and summer into practice. We wanted to shout out the amazing Fall youth crew who have worked hard these past two months to make each of these projects run.

Flower Business 

Aakash and Maria de los Angeles
Aakash and Maria de los Angeles ran the FoodWhat flower business this year. They came to the farm twice a week to harvest flowers, arrange bouquets, handle the accounting, and deliver them to local businesses. They took full ownership and responsibility of their work, learning the proper cutting and handling of each type of flower and delivering high quality and artistic arrangements.

We are grateful for the support and partnership from local businesses that bought our flowers each week: Cafe Delmarette, Lulu Carpenters, Penny Ice Creamery, Patagonia, and Charlie Hong Kong. 


Harvest Festival Event Organizers

Uriel: "Check this out!"
Maria: "Which one should I use?"
Maria and Uriel were this year's Harvest Festival Planners. They learned and implemented all the skills necessary to put on a major event (planning the stations and flow of the event, outreach to partners and volunteers, invites to schools, press, harvesting the pumpkins, event set up and day-of facilitators). This year they correlated the FoodWhat Harvest Festival with National Food Day and focused the theme on Real Food, Just Food, and Justice for farm workers. Still running the good ol' favorite stations (pumpkin carving, hay rides, popcorn shucking and popping, apple tarts and cider pressing, Youth Dollar Power and Fast Food Jeopardy workshops), they added many new and improved stations to the event such as: Squash Injustice Tasting (participants could taste three different types of winter squash and vote for their favorite), Thank a Farm Worker Campaign (participants learned about the experience of many farm workers and wrote them letters of appreciation), and a Food Day themed Photo Booth. The event was a complete success hosting 300 youth from all over Santa Cruz County. Check out what the press wrote about the event here!


Culinary Crew

Maria de los Angeles

Food is in our name. It's what we do. Miguel and Maria de los Angeles took on the chef roll and cooked up an amazing amount of deliciousness this fall. They honed their culinary skills by preparing food for the FoodWhat Benefit Dinner, lunches for Life Lab workshop participants, dinners for the other FoodWhat youth, apple tarts for the FoodWhat Harvest Festival, and canned up some salsa for next year's programs, YUM!




Harvest and Farm Stand 

Fall is when the farm is most abundant with food to harvest. Though we begin harvesting vegetables in June, in September and October we add tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, cabbage, and onions to our already bountiful fields of basil, lettuce, broccoli, squash, beans, cucumbers, cilantro, leeks, carrots, beets, and more. This fall Pedro, Ziah, Lucas and Miguel managed the harvest and post harvest handling of all of our crops. They came to the farm every Tuesday afternoon to harvest for the FoodWhat Farm Stand that happened at Gault Elementary School each Wednesday. 
Harvest Managers: Ziah, Pedro, Miguel, and Lucas

On Wednesday mornings Pedro and Ziah set up and ran the farm stand at Gault Elementary. Each year FoodWhat runs a farm stand at Gault Elementary School for nine weeks in the fall. We sell our produce to the school community at discounted prices so that our food is comparable to the price of produce in conventional grocery stores. We believe that all people have a right to fresh, local, organic, healthy fruits and vegetables. Our goal is to support our community by helping to make this food more accessible and affordable to all and take an action step toward food justice in Santa Cruz.    
Ziah and Pedro managing the farm stand at Gault Elementary

Farm Crew

Ziah, Roanna, Uriel, Cesar
Cesar, Uriel, Lucas, Ziah and Alora were this year's farm co-managers. Not only did they take care of the weeding, harvesting, planting, cover cropping etc., but they also overhauled the basic design of the FoodWhat field, spending countless hours and dripping tons of sweat by hand digging out the pathways between each bed to more clearly define the paths from the beds. This has been a dream of ours over the past seasons and this crew took it on with a positive attitude and strong muscle. 
Newly dug pathways between beds

The fall farm management job also gave each of them the opportunity to not only develop stronger "farming eyes", but also practice time and group management skills as well as the important leadership skill of finishing a task with quality while looking ahead to think through the next project.

Axel digging beds
 Each week Axel, Alistar, Uriel and Alora go to a different school or community garden to help "Blast" out some major maintenance and infrastructure projects. This fall they have tackled everything from pond maintenance at Gateway to composting and digging beds at Costanoa to mulching a community orchard with Mesa Verde Gardens and extraordinary amounts of weeding at all the sites. Their work helps deepen and expand the educational programs that run at each site. 

Axel, Alistar, Alora, and Uriel

Thank you to Patagonia for sponsoring the BLAST Program

Saturday, November 1, 2014

2014 Harvest Festival!

On October 23rd, nearly 300 middle and high school students from across the county came out to the farm for our annual Food, What?! Harvest Festival! The day was filled with lots of fun and educational farm, food, health and empowerment activities!

We were excited to connect this year's event with nationwide Food Day, deepening the focus on food access and justice for food and farmworkers. We even had a Food Day Photobooth! For more on what went down, check out some of the day's highlights...

After grabbing a name tag, map and station checklist, students headed to the pumpkin patch (thank you CASFS for sharing your field with us), where they got to pick a pumpkin from the nearly 200 we grew and harvested this year at our partner farm in Watsonville, Live Earth.

Once students had a pumpkin, it was on to the main festival area to dive into the many stations and workshops! 

Several stations gave students an opportunity to taste fresh foods and think about food choices. 

At the Apple Tasting station, we tasted three types of farm fresh apples -- MacIntosh, Jonagold and Fuji. We learned that there are 2,500 known apple varieties in the U.S., but only 15 varieties make up over 90% of all apples grown! Of those, Red Delicious is the #1 selling. We were challenged to think about why so few apples are offered in stores and why the Red Delicious looks so waxy and uniform compared to the farm fresh apples.

The "Squash" Injustice station gave us the chance to use our voting power and choose which squash we liked best: Delicata, Butternut or Red Kuri.


Our friend, Tawn, from Greenways to School came through with his bike blender so we could use our body power to make delicious berry smoothies!

We also tasted farm fresh apples at the Cider Pressing and Apple Pie Making stations! We used a cider press to smash and squeeze the apples into deliciously sweet apple cider. 

In our outdoor kitchen, we washed and cored apples and filled pie tarts with the fresh apple filling to make our own mini pies. They were so tasty! And guess what? No added sugar!


As we filled our bellies, we also challenged our minds. At the Food Justice Wall workshop we learned about the differences in access to fresh food in Oakland compared to Santa Cruz. We talked about food justice issues in our communities and what we can do about them.


Miguel and Uriel, FoodWhat youth, led us in What You Drink, What You Think: Youth Dollar Power. This workshop taught us about some of the health effects of consuming artificial sugars, and showed us how much sugar is in many drinks and how to read labels to know. It challenged us to think about what we're voting for when we buy different drinks.



We answered questions about fast food and the fast food industry with FoodWhat Alumni, Tyrelle and Sarah, at the Fast Food Jeopardy game.   

                    We learned about Fair Trade.

At one of our new stations, Thank Your Farmworker Campaign, students learned about the challenges and injustices that farmworkers face. We then had the opportunity to turn that into something positive by making a thank-you card for a farmworker. All the cards will be delivered to farmworkers through the Center for Farmworker Families.

Close by were more creative stations. Our friends from Subjects to Change Youth Program helped students make their own buttons from a variety of materials and food-related phrases, such as "Food Day", "Real Food, Just Food," and "Celebrate Farmworkers." So much fun!

                Some of us carved or painted our pumpkins at the Pumpkin Carving station!

As we wandered from station to station, students stopped to pet a goat and sheep, brought to the farm by Gail from Westside Farm and Feed. There were also chickens to hold and learn about.              

And just past the chickens...our Food Day Photobooth!!! Brought to us with help from our friend, Nicole Zahm of the Santa Cruz Community Farmers' Market. There were so many fun props and phrases to use! 


Final stop...the Hayride! (Thanks Darryl for driving the tractor!) While students waited in line, many visited the Popcorn station conveniently located where the tractor picked up. We popped popcorn actually grown by our crew this year on the FoodWhat farm!                                

We want to say a big THANK YOU to all who made the 2014 Harvest Festival a huge success! A special shout-out goes to New Leaf Community Markets, who generously sponsored the event. Thanks New Leaf!

We look forward to seeing everyone again at next year's event!