Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Food, What?!" Youth Rock the FoodSpeaks Radio Premiere!

The premiere episode of FoodSpeaks went off without a hitch on December 12th, 2012 as Doron Comerchero, Maya Salsedo and Deonte McClure took to the mic to address food issues facing youth and their efforts in the food movement. Featured on KZSC 88.1 the second Wednesday of each month, FoodSpeaks is a collective voice that aims to promote the ideas, culture, and people that make up the food movement here in Santa Cruz County. Led by our own Doron, Santa Cruz County Farmer’s Market organizers Nesh Dhillon and Nicole Zahm, and Kate’s Kitchen Garden’s Kate Purcell, the show will feature guest speakers on topics ranging from food justice, to farm labor, to food economics, to at-home gardening projects, and more.

In the first show, titled “Youth and the Food Justice Movement”, Doron, Maya, and Deonte spoke candidly about the work they have done locally with FoodWhat and nationally with Rooted in Community. They also explained how they have transferred the lessons of their work into their peer and family culture and their everyday lives. The goal of this show was to showcase youth involvement in food movement work, and these two youth did a stellar job of reppin’ their age group!

Maya discussed her 2012 Brower Youth Award for her work on the “Youth Food Bill of Rights” and expressed her desire to continuing mobilizing youth nationally to make significant changes that will ultimately lead to equal access and equitable distribution of fresh, healthy foods. Maya grew up in a food insecure household that relied heavily on processed, unhealthy, fast foods. She explained how the juxtaposition of her upbringing with the knowledge she gleaned from FoodWhat and food justice work has propelled her to take action on many levels. Maya uses her personal transformation to inform the work she does, and catalyzes this energy to create big picture change.

Deonte had the local slant, focusing predominantly on how his involvement with FoodWhat has affected the choices he makes in his life every day as he learns to eat, live, and be healthier. Doron asked Deonte, “ So, it’s Friday night - you and your friends have all been out partying - and you roll up to Taco Bell for some late night snacks. What do you order off the menu?” Questions like these highlight the central role of unhealthy, fast foods in teen’s lives and display the dynamics of peer pressure in a youth’s food decisions. Deonte handled the questions with finesse, highlighting his awareness of nutrition and healthful habits, and said that he would just try to order the healthiest thing on the menu. 

Deonte and Maya explained that, often, there just aren’t any healthy choices available and youth are impelled to make poor food choices due to a lack of variety in their markets and neighborhoods. They expressed their frustration with this situation, and their desire to work to change it in their schools, communities, and world. Their message came through loud and clear, youth want equal access to fresh, healthy foods, and Maya and Deonte are leading the way to make it happen!

Listen to the show here!

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?!"