Kids in New York’s food deserts continue their education on hydroponics at home
Teens for Food Justice (TFFJ), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to fresh, healthy food through youth-led and school-based hydroponics agriculture, helps children living in New York’s food deserts continue to grow nutritious products and engage with food justice content during the pandemic. By transmitting cutting-edge urban farming techniques through a home-based model, TFFJ has engaged more than 450 middle and high school students in hydroponics of fresh produce at home and with the ability to share this food, these practices of growth and this important conversation. with their families in these difficult times.
Through education in hydroponics, nutrition and food justice emphasizing the importance of a healthy food system for all, TFFJ has helped bring fresh produce to communities in New York who need it most since its inception in 2013. During the pandemic and the challenges presented by school closures, it has helped students continue to make the connection between the culture of food and the fight against it. food insecure, even when they are not physically able to be on their school farms.
Building a sustainable movement
“We don’t just provide students with advanced solutions to the lack of fresh and affordable food in desert food communities. We also allow them to connect more with the concepts we teach them through our daily curriculum and our after-school programs, only now in a different context, ”said Katherine Soll, CEO and Founder of TFFJ. Soll added: “We are building the foundations for a sustainable social movement that can help bridge the gaps between low-income and high-income urban communities.”
Using indoor hydroponics systems, TFFJ school farms have galvanized a youth-led movement to end food insecurity within a generation. This innovative urban farming technology allows students aged 12 to 18 to harvest up to 10,000 pounds of fresh produce per year at four New York City Title I public schools. Until schools close due to the pandemic , the products were served daily in school cafeterias, providing fresh and nutritious food to all students on campus. Thanks to the large-scale production of the farms, these products were also distributed free and affordable by students to members of the local community and donated to local pantries.
Following the pandemic closure of schools (and the TFFJ farm) in mid-March 2020, TFFJ shifted its focus to partnering with local producers and began distributing 600 pounds of fresh produce each week to its partner school communities. , thus complementing the take-out food options. primarily available to residents through COVID-19 emergency power programs. Today, TFFJ runs weekly and bi-weekly food distributions to four partner school communities located in Kingsbridge, Bronx, Brownsville, Brooklyn, Far Rockaway, Queens and Lincoln Center / Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan. In total, this effort has benefited no less than 1,000 New York homes per week.
TFFJ has also distributed over 450 home hydroponics kits to its Food Justice Collective and after school students, enabling them to build small hydroponic systems that grow microgreens and lettuce in their homes. This way, students who would otherwise engage with TFFJ’s school hydroponic farms can still receive hands-on learning experience, connect food cultivation with food justice, and share what they learn with their families.
Harvest your meals
“During these times, we were successful in capturing children’s interest in our hands-on cultivation programs. Some teachers have even seen children turn on their cameras for the first time during online home grow kit classes, ”said Matthew Horgan, Head of STEM Programming and School Partnerships for TFFJ. Horgan added that the students have been enthusiastic about growing produce on their windowsills using TFFJ’s simple hydroponic systems and that they plan to incorporate their harvest into their meals.
“The nutrition education we are receiving, especially now, will help people understand the meaning of green vegetables and healthy foods, and why they are better. If we eat healthier and stop eating all that junk food, we will live longer. , and I’m sure everyone in this world would love to have a longer life, ”said Grade 10 Miguel.
The TFFJ model offers young urban farmers a meaningful solution to food insecurity in their communities and helps them transform their relationship with the food they consume, while developing the scientific and technological skills needed in a new green economy. “We are committed to returning farms and school programs to their pre-pandemic capacity as soon as our partner schools are open. The positive impact of this program on students can be life changing, ”comments Soll. “We found that 100 percent of students understand how nutritious foods make a positive difference to their health after completing the program, 95 percent feel a better leader and can advocate for food justice, and 76 percent share what they have learned with. friends and family. “
To access the hydroponic instruction kit, please visit the website https://www.teensforfoodjustice.org/jar-hydroponic-system-kit/.