While organizations across the country just like Food What?! make a huge impact within local communities, it’s important to build a larger community among them to make a national impact on our food system. One FoodWhat alumni, Maya, has expanded her food justice and youth empowerment activism to a national level, working with youth organizations across the country through Rooted in Community (RIC). Maya was one of Foodwhat’s very first crew members back in 2007 working with only four other youth! Inspired by FoodWhat’s work, she went on the become one of FoodWhat’s first junior staff and continues her work now in her college years. Maya’s continued passion and dedication to promoting food justice beyond her time with FoodWhat even won her the 2012 Brower Youth Award! FoodWhat is proud to see such a strong and rad woman carrying on our mission.
Maya returned to her roots with FoodWhat to lead a workshop on the Youth Food Bill of Rights. She kicked off the workshop with a hilarious and challenging icebreaker in which everyone picked a vegetable and had to say their vegetable twice, then call on someone else’s vegetable. The catch? No one could show their teeth!
Then we discussed how different policies are enforced and how they affect different people. To warm up, we talked about casual policies, such as school dress codes and parents' curfew times, before discussing controversial policies implemented by the government. Actively engaged in the conversation, the crew brought up several points of discussion and debate to think about throughout this talk.
Now clear about how policies are implemented, enforced, and change individual lives, Maya passed around copies of the Youth Food Bill of Rights. This bill was written in 2011 by youth across the country (just like those of FoodWhat?!) to fight for more justice within the food system. This bill lists seventeen rights worth fighting for to create a more just food system, a healthier society, and environmentally friendly ways of producing food. The crew chose to focus on three of the goals listed in the bill: the right to healthy food within schools, the right of easy access to healthy and affordable food, and the right to health education beyond the very basics of nutritious eating. The crew split up into three groups to discuss possible actions to take to make these rights a reality within communities and ways to communicate these demands with those capable of formalizing change.
The groups each shared their ideas of action with the rest of the crew for feedback and discussion. Maya recorded these ideas to share with the rest of RIC. Each month, every organization apart of the RIC community agrees on an action to demonstrate the rights listed on the Youth Food Bill of Rights. This way, youth’s voices, ideas, and concerns are directly heard and echoed throughout the country!
After this motivating workshop, it was time to unwind with Fa-Jun! The whole crew came together to finish the day off with an hour of Tai Chi.
Nutritional Eating! Plus a Guest Chef!
Every week, Abby leads a nutrition workshop to help the crew make more thoughtful food choices. This week’s workshop was focused on food groups and different kinds of fats.
Abby showed us a simple, yet effective, way to make sure we’re getting enough of each food group simply by dividing up our plates! Nellie pointed out that the government also uses this model to demonstrate healthy eating, but warned us not to be fooled by the colors used in their model! Even though the carbohydrate section is yellow (like corn, a powerful industry in the U.S.) and the protein section is red (like beef, another powerful industry), there are many other ways of eating a nutritious diet without consuming tons of hamburgers and corn-based treats!
Then Abby pulled out a super rad model for sorting out our food into the right categories! Using a box of wrappers and fake foods, the crew had to sort them out and put them into their right places on our power plate. This showed us which foods will fuel us with the powerful nutrients!
Abby explained why fats are extremely important to our diets for a number of reasons, ranging from keeping our brains healthy to keeping our skin clear and glowing, despite the common notion that fats are always bad. However, the crew was a little unclear about which fats are essential and which have a negative impact on our bodies. Do cupcakes count as a serving of essential fats? To clear up the confusion, Abby explained the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats and tricks to remember which ones are good and bad.
Then she issued one crucial warning: stop eating trans fats! These fats, man-made through partially-hydrogenated oils, are completely foreign to our bodies and never make us feel nourished or full (so we keep eating them!). On top of that, studies are now showing many health risks associated with trans fats. Most of the junk food and convenient snacks sold in stores contain these fats, so it’s important to always check the ingredient lists!
To put our knowledge to use, we paired up to brainstorm balanced meals that we can make for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home. Abby and Nellie gave tips to balance out any meals that needed a little more or less of one of the food groups.
The workshop ended just in time for the owner of El Salchichero, Chris, to make lunch with us! At El Salchichero, Chris serves up delicious, sustainably-raised meat from local farms. Chris brought in marinated beef from the grass-fed cows grazing along Highway One to make carne asada burritos! To complete the burrito bar, the crew planned to make beet and cucumber salsa, guacamole, veggies, beans, and a salad for the side! For dessert? Fresh peaches with whipped cream.
Josh and Keyah started cooking up the meat. The smell spread throughout the FoodWhat kitchen and made everyone's mouth water right off the bat. Chris started working on the beans as a vegetarian alternative to the carne asada. As the beef started sizzling, Connor chopped up some onions to add even more flavor to the meat.
A lot of teamwork went into making the cucumber and beet salad! Damien and Cindy diced cucumbers while Kayla shredded beets for the salsa. Nelly sliced raw corn right off of the cob to throw in and Crystal was busy finely chopping herbs to add some subtle flavors. At first slightly skeptical of this refreshing salsa recipe, the bright pink color of the final product made everybody excited to try it once it was complete.
Nelly also worked on mashing up some avocados to make some delicious homemade guacamole! Chris demonstrated a method of easily and cleanly chopping up an avocado to get perfect-sized pieces.
As always, all hands on deck for chopping up fresh veggies! The crew chopped up cabbage, squash, and broccoli for Derek to saute. This mix added even more color to our festive burritos.
Derek was also on board with getting the salad prepared. After mixing a variety of lettuces together, he shredded carrots and cucumbers into the mix. Gaelen mixed a lime vinaigrette to dress the bountiful side dish. The limes used in this dressing weren’t just any limes, but Rangpur limes! Although they loom like clementines, they still have a sour taste with a slightly different flavor than a typical lime.
With the salad good to go, Gaelen and Derek got a head start on dessert. After washing the peaches, they sliced them into halves and pitted them.
Connor added the finishing touch to the peaches as he mixed some fresh whipped cream with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
Everybody was trying to snag pieces of the carne asada, so it was time to slice it up for burritos before it was gone! Chris and Cindy sliced the meat into perfect morsels. Ever taken a bite of a burrito only to have everything fall out midbite? Chris (guest chef) showed our slicers the perfect cutting technique to avoid such a tragedy occurring.
And the meal was complete! The burrito bar was laid out for perfect burrito-building access. The variety of colors and food exemplified the day’s nutrition workshop and made it easy to include all of the food groups. Success! Even the peaches were a delicious indulgence with some nutritional value.
Chris was an awesome guest chef! All of his tips, from marinade recipes to his knowledge of spices and cooking techniques, made the day an exciting learning experience. After today’s meal, the crew definitely looks forward to working with Chris some more!