Patrick Hulce | DP
This Friday, business-minded Philadelphia youth gathered at Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia to bring healthy, local produce to their communities.
The Youth Grower’s Market was the last in the first season of these events organized by the Urban Nutrition Initiative — part of Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships — which works with 75 high-school student interns to help them grow, cook and sell healthy food.
The market marked the first time different youth organizations from around the city — including Teens for Good and the Youth Urban Mobile Market — and UNI schools Sayre High School, Saul High School, Bartram High School and the School of the Future were brought together. The event saw about 15 high-school students selling produce they grew themselves.
The UNI works with students in Academically Based Community Service courses, as well as volunteers from Penn, to provide high-school students with mentoring and college preparation assistance. Students in the program also have the opportunity to travel to visit colleges and speak at food justice conferences.
The goal of the Youth Grower’s Market was to “bring healthy food to a neighborhood where it’s not otherwise readily available,” according to UNI Director Danny Gerber. “We found that youth farm stands have a great way of encouraging people to purchase produce, support the youth and engage in dialogue … it builds a sense of community around food,” he added.
Taj Jones, who is a manager of a YUMM bicycle-driven food cart, said that growing and selling produce at Youth Grower’s Markets has “helped [him] become a better public speaker, citizen and business leader.”
This summer, UNI also hosted a national conference at Penn that brought 150 youth leaders from over 20 states together to create a Youth Food Bill of Rights as part of their discussion of how youth can improve the food system, Tyler Holmberg, project director at Bartram’s Community Farm and Food Resource Center, said. “It was a forum for students to meet other youth doing this work … and work to increase access [to healthy food] in neighborhoods with high rates of diet-related diseases,” he said.
“This is a movement where young people are taking control of their food system,” Gerber added.