We offer a unique solution to the lack of healthy food access in New York City food deserts. In Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn--where obesity rates are high and healthy food options are limited-we provide a service learning program for teen volunteer teams to build and maintain a hydroponic farm in an elementary school classroom. The farm serves as a source of fresh produce for the school's 600 families and a community outreach hub promoting healthy, sustainable practices for at-risk residents.
16% of New Yorkers are food insecure and undernourished; 1 in 4 children are affected. Many are obese and suffer from severe and costly health risks associated with limited access to affordable healthy food options. In neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy, where only 1 in 5 food stores sells fresh leafy greens, 95% of residents eat much less than the recommended daily amount of fruits & vegetables. Even if fresh produce is made available, lack of familiarity can be a barrier to changing eating habits.
We train teen volunteers to fight these trends through community service and urban farming in schools of food insecure communities. We provide them with knowledge and skills in nutrition, sustainability and food justice advocacy, which they use to lead monthly outreach events in the classroom greenhouse they built. Their outreach helps a school's 600 children & families gain familiarity with fresh, growing produce and learn new skills for shopping, cooking, and eating more healthfully.
The classroom greenhouse yields over 3,000 heads of leafy greens and vine crops yearly, from which the school's 600 children and families benefit directly. K - 7 age students learn hands-on life-science, nutrition & sustainability in the greenhouse year-round; their families are exposed to ongoing community outreach that empowers them to maintain healthy eating habits in the long-term. In 4 years, 100 teens will have been trained to lead their own solutions to pressing social justice issues.