Thursday, January 8, 2015

2014 FoodWhat Community Educator Workshop Series

2014 Community Educator Program

After a few days of training, our 2014 FoodWhat youth Community Educators -- Miguel Zarate, Uriel Reyes and Vicky Pozos-Bernal -- were ready to kick off our three-week workshop series! This year, FoodWhat Community Educators led weekly peer-to-peer workshops in eight classes across the county, including: Pajaro Valley High School, YES School, Watsonville Community and Jovenes Sanos.

Week One

Week One, Miguel dropped knowledge about the sugar content in popular beverages, label-reading and youth dollar power in, "What You Drink, What You Think."

After an initial brainstorm around what processed sugar does to your body, youth were asked to identify the amount of sugar in a can of Arizona Iced Tea. Not as easy as it sounds! Most were tricked into thinking the sugar content was much less than it actually is because of the multiple servings per can. Little sneaky, eh? 

Miguel raised the question of why a company may split sugar content into three servings, when most of us acknowledged that we consume a can of Arizona in one sitting.

Youth were then given an easy equation to calculate how many teaspoons of sugar are contained in beverages and invited to come up and try this out on some popular drinks. Once they figured out the teaspoons of sugar, we counted them out into a clear glass. Check out how much sugar is in a Coke...intense!

After Rockstar and Coke, we asked youth to calculate the processed sugar content of a "Juice Squeeze." Surprise! After examining the ingredient list, we found no processed sugar. It contains 100% natural sugar from fruit! Miguel told us our bodies need natural sugars to function and offered tastes of some yummy and affordable real fruit beverages.

Miguel concluded the workshop by asking youth "how many of you vote?" Although there were very few raised hands, Miguel suggested that we all vote, every day; that each time we spend a dollar, we are voting for something. "That's our power as youth!"

Week Two

Week Two featured, "Food As Activism." After a quick icebreaker, Uriel offered up a definition of food justice and told the class why it matters to him personally -- he sees a lot of obesity in Watsonville and wants to change the quality of school lunch so his two younger brothers have access to healthier food on a daily basis.  

He then invited us to do a group brainstorm of the following questions: What is activism? Who are famous activists you know about? What are issues people fight for? 

This led into the main activity, where youth broke into groups and were given a sheet containing eight short stories about food activism or activism using food. Groups were assigned a story and asked to prepare three key points to share with the class as a whole -- What were people in the story fighting for? What action(s) did they take? What personal thoughts or reactions do you have to the story? 

After hearing profound stories of activism from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to the Black Panthers to Ghandi, Uriel challenged us to think about the issues that make us want to be activists. 

What do YOU care about? What are YOU going to take action on?    

Week Three

In our final week, veteran Community Educator and FoodWhat Alumni, Vicky Pozos-Bernal, talked to groups about the food system in "Trace Your Taco," examining a Taco Bell taco vs. a real food taco.  

She immediately got student's attention by passing around a Taco Bell taco. We were asked to list the components of the taco. One by one, Vicky talked about where and how the majority of these products in the U.S. are sourced for the fast food industry. She asked students how far these products travel in order to reach a Taco Bell in Santa Cruz County. 

Here's a snapshot of what we learned:

The tortilla: most corn in the U.S. is grown in the MidWest Corn Belt region. Most is genetically modified, meaning chemicals are injected into the seed. The seed then grows with the poisons in it. It travels 1,500 miles to the Taco Bell in Santa Cruz County. 

The meat: cows come from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), most likely in Texas. Meat travels about 1,200 miles to reach the Taco Bell in Santa Cruz County. In CAFOs, cows are crammed in so tightly they can hardly move around. They stand in their own feces all day. In order to avoid sickness under these conditions they are pumped full of antibiotics, whether sick or not. Youth were invited to come forward and act-out these conditions! 

Vicky passed out actual pictures of CAFOs, as well as a list of ingredients contained in Taco Bell's "beef" mixture. Most youth had an easy time identifying 3-4 ingredients they put in the ground beef they make at home. Guess how many were contained in Taco Bell "beef"? 27 ingredients!!! Only 36% real meat! Whoa.

The tomatoes: 80% of tomatoes grown for the fast food industry come from Immokalee, Florida. Farmworkers are paid .50 cents per 32lb bucket of tomatoes. This means they must harvest 150 32lb buckets of tomatoes per day in order to make minimum wage. As if this weren't hard enough, farmworkers are also at great risk of ingesting chemicals from pesticides used to keep insects off the tomatoes. Tomatoes travel a whopping 3,000 miles from Florida to Santa Cruz County! Somewhere along the way, they are artificially "ripened" with chemicals. 
This may all seem rather discouraging...BUT WAIT...Vicky tells youth there's an alternative to this Industrial Conventional Food System. She then presented a "Real Food System," by offering youth a delicious taco made by FoodWhat from locally-sourced ingredients! The ingredients in this taco travelled less than 200 miles, were grown organically without pesticides, and the workers were paid well and treated with respect! So which would you choose?

The 2014 workshop series provided an awesome opportunity to reach more students with FoodWhat-style workshops, as well as a major growth opportunity for our Community Educators to step up as leaders. Many thanks to Miguel, Uriel and Vicky, and to all the students and teachers that participated in the workshop series!   


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