Making a Difference with (and through) Hands, Hearts, Minds

The emergence of spring and the beginning of April have brought eye-popping growth, new faces, and broadened perspectives to the Seeds of Change Farm at New Beginnings.

See the Big Picture, Send a Strong Message: Fight Hunger

Flanked by two big community outreach programs in March and May, April’s service project was an opportunity for teen volunteers to build their knowledge and leadership skills in the broader food justice and sustainability movements.

Michelle Friedman, Communications Director of the NYC Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH) led the volunteer team in a morning discussion about the political, economic and organizational realities around hunger and barriers to food access citywide. Using this insight from NYCCAH, teens worked in small groups guided by our mentor team to brainstorm ways to combat the stigma associated with food insecurity and lack of awareness of government food subsidies and other services to which citizens are entitled. They also discussed how their work at New Beginnings contributes to the fight against food insecurity and how they can expand this work.

Most importantly, they looked at messaging: how to boost awareness of these issues among people from all walks of life and how to respectfully assist and empower food-insecure families to claim their rights to food access.

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Compost Workshop: The Food Cycle Doesn’t Have to End in a Landfill

Did you know that food makes up 17 percent of the NYC waste stream? And, that a comparable percentage of our waste consists of compostable non-food items?

Students for Service board member, Valerie Soll, led the volunteer team in taking a closer look at composting along with other patterns of food waste, beginning with the vermicomposting (worm) system that is in our own greenhouse. They identified challenges to composting in an urban environment and learned about organizations and city government initiatives that promote sustainable waste management practices. Finally, they learned how to compost at home, to help their communities compost, and discussed how to bring a more active recycling program to New Beginnings Charter School.

Getting Hands-On: New Beginnings Kids’ First Harvest and Salad-fest

In the past few weeks, our leafy green crops have grown fuller and hardier than ever and sweet pepper and tomato plants are blooming. Thanks to the speedy growth of our lettuces, New Beginnings students were given their first hands-on opportunity to harvest in the greenhouse

A few days before our April service day, a small team of Teens for Food Justice volunteers led groups of children in the New Beginnings afterschool program through the greenhouse, explaining hydroponics and the types of veggies we grow. Volunteers helped each young student harvest a plant. The children carefully plucked lettuce, pac choi and mustard greens out of the VOHS system and discovered the plants’ roots and the soft, saturated texture of the Rockwool beds that they grow in.

Then, the teens washed the freshly harvested greens and prepared a salad for all to enjoy! Seconds, even thirds, were happily requested for a refreshing, home-grown afternoon snack. This opportunity to involve our host schoolchildren in the full greenhouse cycle—from planting to harvesting to eating its bounty—was the next step in engaging the Bed-Stuy community in the lessons and potential of the Teens for Food Justice initiative.

Empowering Teens Feeding Communities Building a Healthy Sustainable Future