Edible Schoolyard NYC, the non-profit organization that my group chose for the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) project, works alongside NYC public schools; particularly those in low-income communities and those who suffer the most form dietary related diseases. Edible School Yard helps set up urban gardens in schoolyards and educates students on how to choose, make and eat healthy and sustainable foods to ultimately maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. They provide students with opportunities to work hands-on in urban grown schoolyard gardens and in cooking classes; as well as allowing them to think, discuss and learn in more typical classroom environments. Their mission statement states: “Edible Schoolyard NYC partners with public schools to transform the hearts, minds, and eating habits of young New Yorkers through garden and kitchen classes integrated into the school day.” They explain that their vision statement “is that all children are educated and empowered to make healthy food choices for themselves, their communities, and their environment, actively achieving a just and sustainable food system for all.”
Working with Edible Schoolyard NYC to promote food education and equality though the YPI initiative, I have become more impassioned about teaching human beings how to take care of themselves in this age of agribusiness and processed food. We all need to reconnect to our food and understand that good food brings good health. Rather than adhering to the city norms of consuming fast food and eating while walking, we need to embrace the cultivation and care of our food, and by doing so; our bodies and minds will thrive.
The greatest challenge for the YPI student is team communication. There is an intensified sense of accountability involved in the completion of this project as you are not only representing yourself and your group in the final product but also the organization you have chosen to support. The clerical work that is involved with organizing schedules and arranging meet up times is incredibly time-consuming. I would recommend to perspective YPI participants to visit the organization’s site location as early as possible and in our school’s case, before spring break. This will allow maximum time for preparation for the presentation, for research and for follow up questions and in turn reduce the stress level on the project participants.
Although Edible Schoolyard NYC largely depends on volunteers during the school day, we have been looking for ways to continue to support the program beyond a school-initiated project. I would love if our organization could develop a once a month family day on weekends where current Edible Schoolyard NYC students can bring siblings, parents, or grandparents to help by working hands-on in the dirt while learning more about healthy eating and living habits. If this were a possibility, then high school students could more actively volunteer.
Ever since the site visit, I have been telling everyone I know about Edible Schoolyard and the amazing work they have been doing for our New York City community. It was such an incredible experience working alongside them and I strive to continue to spread the mission of healthy sustainable food for all.
Below are a few photos from our site visit to P.S. 7, a demonstration school in East Harlem: