Food Works (video)

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 Proverbfood works painting
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.

food works volunteers in the fields.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.



  1. Lea Martin says

    A couple of years ago I visited my dear friends who moved from Sedona, Az to Portland and they took me to the Farmers Market in Portland. It was the BEST Farmers Market I’ve ever been to.
    I was at one of the booths and ended up buying a Tee shirt.
    FOOD WORKS organically grown by North Portland Youth.
    Anyway, it is one of my favorites and after years of wear an tear it is almost thread bare and I would like to get another one, but don’t know where I need to go to purchase one.
    Can you advise. Much appreciate it.
    Lea Martin

  2. says

    Peggy and Rebecca,

    The Food Works program is deeply enriched by the contributions and support of people like you who take the time to help us get the word out about our work and who believe in the young people. As the Program Director, I have been inspired by the generosity of our community partners such as Portland Nursery, New Seasons Market, Sauvie Island Organics, Housing Authority of Portland, Metro, the United Way of the Columbia Willamette and others who share time and resources to support the vision of the youth. It takes a village….thank you so very much!

  3. says

    City Beets is a program similar to Food Works in Dayton, Ohio that works with urban teens, age 12-15. We have found gardening and food a great forum for teaching other life skills too (leadership, community involvement, food system awareness, job & business skills)

    Great to see what you are doing too!

  4. Peggy says

    I spent part of yesterday out at the Food Works farm giving a workshop to the crew, and they had heard that the video has already been posted to a couple youth/food/community sites – one even up in Canada! I was telling them now that on future resumes they can claim to have been a part of an “internationally known” program! I love the way this story is getting around…

  5. says

    Jean Ann, thanks so much for support. You are awesome!

    Peggy, This group of folks is so inspiring. They put so much of themselves into what they do. And what great results, all around. Thanks for your help, and I’m looking forward to your article in ediblePortland!

    Karol, Wow! That’s wonderful =) Thanks for sharing it, and letting me know. By others seeing what Food Works does, perhaps something like their program could evolve in other communities. It is another example of a win-win situation and building a local food economy.

    Tricia, Yes, it’s phenomenal the results that occur when you begin to learn where your food comes from. This is something many of us, as Americans, have gotten away from in the last 30-40 years. It’s great to see a surge to return to some of the ways and rules of thumb of our ‘grandmothers’. I would love to hear what comes of any of your future volunteer efforts!

  6. says

    Wow – thank you for shooting this inspirational video. What Food Works does is a major part of why I do what I do – helping people to learn about where their food comes from is so important. I would love to start volunteering with FW after seeing this. Bravo!

  7. Peggy says

    Rebecca, I’m the one who got you the connection to Food Works, and I am so glad I did – it is a stunning video and your journal is such a concise and strikingly clear message about their program (I always find myself getting carried away in my rather long-winded enthusiasm, having worked with them from the beginning and seeing what the program has meant to the youth and to their communities). See? I’m doing it again! What I mean is, thank you from the bottom of my heart for such a fine tribute to such a fine program.
    Peggy Acott

  8. says

    Hi Rebecca! So awesome to meet and have breakfast together…I love your mission and I support it wholeheartedly…In fact, I have left you an award over on my blog! Have a good one…

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