Monday, December 10, 2012


This a very special story. It's about the growth of an individual, the growth of an organization, and the growth of a movement...

Maya Salsedo       Empowering youth with powerful tools to advocate for a just food system

Let's go to the heart of the story: Maya Salsedo wins the Brower Youth Award!

The Brower Youth Award recognizes six young people in North America annually for their outstanding activism and achievements in the field of environmental justice advocacy.  

This is one of the most prestigious awards a youth can win for their activism and leadership, and we are so proud of Maya for her accomplishments!

(Watch this award video made by the Earth Island Institute to hear Maya's story.)

Click here to read the full story!

How strong, how articulate, how powerful, how aware, how sensitive, how generous is this young woman...

Maya won this award for her work in Rooted in Community--the only national youth-led movement for healthy food and food justice for all. She was awarded for her work in the creation of the Youth Food Bill of Rights. This Bill is a vehicle for amplifying the youth voice in the food justice movement and is used as a tool for foundational peer-to-peer education on issues surrounding our food system.  Maya is RIC's National Youth Organizer and according to Gera Marin, RIC's Co-Director, this award "honors her outstanding work and dedication to growing youth power for food justice nationally and beyond!"

The night of her award was a magical night.  I sent a quick communication blast out to past FoodWhat youth and we filled a 15-passenger van to jet up to San Francisco.  What was so unique about this collection of FoodWhat crew, is that with Maya included, we had youth from each of the six years of the program.  Six years of youth were touched by Maya and her work!
There was dancing to celebrate
FoodWhat represent!

We started with a healthy meal
Box seat at the Herbst Theater = loud cheering section for Maya

There was so much eager anticipation each time they were about to present the next award. And then Maya took the stage...

She told her story, invited the crowd to shout out "Fooooood, Whaaaaaat?!", spoke about the importance of Rooted in Community while explaining the Youth Food Bill of Rights, and offered appreciations to her mentors in this journey.

Maya as part of the FIRST FoodWhat Crew in 2007
Maya getting her hands dirty that first year

Maya's work is changing youth culture around food.  It's changing young people's understanding of their food system in relation to what they eat, how it affects the farm workers and the environment, how to get access to fresh healthy food, how to speak up for what you believe in, and that when you do so it really does make a difference.  Maya created a tool for youth to engage in all these conversations--a way for them to explore and get activated.  

Maya's work in FoodWhat created a second-year youth model which is now our Junior Staff program.  She has constantly innovated our program and offered peer-to-peer education to our crews each summer.  She even helps with the funding of FoodWhat, like keynoting our benefit this past Fall.

Maya designed the Rooted in Community Youth Organizer job and then filled it.  She collaborated with over 100 youth from around the country to lead them in creating the Youth Food Bill of Rights.  Through RIC she speaks at conferences to adults about the youth role in the food movement and she connects directly with youth.

I remember driving Maya and a few others to the Brower Youth Awards in 2008.  Maya left that evening feeling inspired to do something like those award winners to make a significant impact for positive change.  She wanted to do something worthy of such an award.

Now she's the one on stage, and leaving that night, our crew was buzzing with energy about what they might do. 

Last week, my wife Kirstin (local farmer) was on a sustainable agriculture panel at UCSC.  Before she spoke she texted me that two FoodWhat alums, Vicky and Max, were in the front row! Even better is the back story that had them seated together that day...At Maya's award Vicky and Max (from different years at FoodWhat) connected and decided that they want to do something big to win the award.  They had met up before Kirstin's class to talk about their plan, and then Vicky who goes to UCSC invited Max to stay. There is a ripple effect that Maya is spreading from winning her award, and it's going out big!

Doron Comerchero
Director-"Food, What?!"

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