New York’s food deserts are areas where citizens are restricted to buying their food from small corner shops. Which means they can only buy a limited amount of goods locally and have little, or no access, to fresh produce on their doorstep.
In a bid to help school kids in these districts take the issue of food insecurity into their own hands, nonprofit Teens for Food Justice (TFFJ) supports them to construct and run hydroponic farms inside their schools. In the pandemic that support has switched to a home-based model that has taken urban farming techniques into kids home. More than 450 middle and high school students have learned this way how to grow food hydroponically in their homes using TFFJ’s DIY hydroponic systems. Matthew Horgan, STEM Programming & School Partnership Manager for TFFJ says students have been inspired by these DIY systems to grow produce on their windowsills they then use in their meals. It is hoped students will soon be able to return to their school-based hydroponic farms as Covid restrictions begin to lift.
“We are committed to bringing the farms and in-school programming back to pre-pandemic capacity as soon as our partner schools are open. The positive impact this program has on students can be life-changing,” said Katherine Soll, TFFJ CEO and Founder. “We’ve found that 100% of students understand how nutritious food makes a positive difference in their health after completing the program, 95% feel they are a better leader and can advocate for food justice, and 76% share what they have learned with friends and family.”
The pioneering initiative is combining science, technology and engineering with social justice to increase access to food in sustainable ways. Through a TFFJ model that directly connects young urban farmers to food systems, while also giving them skills that will allow them to thrive in the new green economy.
“We not only provide students with advanced solutions to the lack of affordable, fresh food in food desert communities. We also enable them to further connect with the concepts that we teach them through our daily curriculum and after-school programs, only now in a different setting,” added Soll, “We are building the foundation for a sustainable social movement that can help to close the gaps between low-and upper-income urban communities.”
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