Young Food Justice Leaders Speak Out
Youth have the energy, idealism, creativity, and conviction needed to move the food movement forward.
Nowhere is this fact more apparent than at a gathering of Rooted in Community (RIC), a national network of youth-centered food justice organizations. In late July, RIC convened more than 100 youth activists and 40 adult allies from around the United States for a five-day leadership-training summit in Greensboro, North Carolina. The gathering aimed to prepare its participants to advocate for resilient, equitable, and thriving communities—all through the lens of food.
Bevelyn Ukah, coordinator of the North Carolina-based Center for Environmental Farming Systems’ Food Youth Initiative, which hosted the summit this year, says she finds youth to be more focused on action than other organizers. In all-adult groups, “there’s a lot of meetings, and nothing is done,” Ukah said. “That can’t go down with youth, because [if it does,] they’re going to stop showing up.”
Since the first RIC conference in Boston in 1999, the leadership summit has become an annual tradition, and the network of youth organizations working for food justice across the country has grown in number and strength.
This year’s summit in Greensboro culminated in a Day of Action, a public event at a city-center park at which the youth offered a food-justice-themed puppet show and series of speakers and then marched with local residents through the downtown streets.
Civil Eats spoke with some of the organizers and participants about the most pressing food-related issues they see in their communities, and the best ways for young people to get involved.