Food Works provides opportunities to young people to make a difference in their communities. The youth comes from a diverse background, 14 to 21 years in age, they learn valuable skills how to communicate more effectively with adults, grow and market the food they produce at farmers markets, and provide fresh produce to low income families nearby.
“More grows in a garden than what the gardener plants”
– Old Spanish Proverb
That proverb stands true to what I witnessed at the Food Works project recently. Each year, through the Janus Youth Programs, a group of up to 10 teenagers from various NE Portland neighborhoods have a chance to give back to their community, and themselves, by growing food.
The project is designed as a job that pays in dollars and school credit. These young people learn how to grow food on a one acre plot of land, manage it as a business, and sell the produce. But that’s not all, they learn what it means to give back to their community by giving away, once a week during the summer, the fresh, clean, and good food they grew with their own hands.
Many of these young folks are from low-income families and many are immigrants. Some struggled with the language, some struggled with their shyness. But they all grew. They grew in self-assurance. They became urban farmers by planning, planting, and harvesting their crops on a farm within a metropolitan area. They learned about the value of food by selling at the local Farmers Market. They discovered there is a growing need for local access to fresh, clean foods, and through their own involvement helped people within their community. They learned through hard work and direct community involvement that there are important roles for young people to play in society.
So you see, food, works. It really does.