Yesterday during our staff meeting, a young man, Jose, came to the front door of the Ralph Bunche House and knocked. He’d seen our sign in the window (it says something about food revolutionaries) when he’d been staying in the neighborhood. Jose’s dad was waiting outside for him in his pick up truck; this man took time out of his work day to bring his son to see us.
Jose wanted to know more about what RootDown LA is up to. (Funny, just before he walked in, Karen asked me if we could find the funds to hire some students to help her in the garden.) Jose shared – he has been teaching himself more about healthy eating this year. He got himself a juicer, and he tries to buy organic produce from Ralph’s (though he’s not happy with their selection or prices). He wanted to know what he could do to get involved. We could think of a dozen ideas.
We’re in an important place. Now at three sites, we’re honing a model for Youth-driven Local Food Sites. We train youth to build demand for healthy food with our cooking, nutrition and food systems lessons, and we have started to create supplies of healthy local food via our horticultural trainings, residential garden installations, and neighborhood compost programs. Young people are taking notice and they are asking to get involved. It’s a good time to think about the way in which your donation could go a long way to give even one ambitious young person a meaningful (and paid) experience, helping to build healthier urban food communities.
$25.00 – a stipend for a Youth Leader to help facilitate a community food event
$300.00 – What it costs to put a student through our more intensive culinary or horticultural trainings
$9,360.00 – what it costs to create a new position for a part time youth staff member
Please think about it, and if you are in a position to give: http://rootdownla.org/whats-needed/.
Wow. Karen Ramirez, a graduate of Jefferson High and early member of RootDown’s programs, has come a long way since (as she put it) she got a little bored chopping veggies with us three years ago. Since then, she’s become a strong local foods advocate, a trained Permaculturist, and an employee with RootDown. Just recently, she even identified a need for, and designed her own position as RootDown LA’s Garden Manager.
Since then, she led the effort to launch our second compost collection program at Nuevo South, and just last week, worked with our Service Learning students to install another residential garden near our Jefferson High location. Thanks to our new NIFA/Community Food Project grant, we are getting more traction as we hone our model for creating youth driven local food sites.
Our youth staff and students ran this neighborhood feast entirely on their own today! Tamales, fruit, veggies, potato salad, green salad and salsa verde for all the neighbors at the Big House/Nuevo South. HUGE thanks to Andres Chopin and his mother for prepping ALL these tamales for us to devour!
RootDown LA’s latest cooking/nutrition class at Nuevo South.
Our latest crew of “You’re Gonna Wanna Eat Your Veggies” trainees turned one of their member’s herb gardens into the source for a FOR-PROFIT urban garden product.
Who wants to buy a locally produced South LA lip balm?!
How is this for coincidence. Seven years ago, RootDown LA founder, Megan Hanson and a San Francisco Mission High School teacher, Erica Ramirez, were trialing some cooking, nutrition and farming programming up north. Two years later, Hanson was invited by RootDown co-founder Katy Atkiss and two innovative teachers, Trish Hanson (yes, two Hansons) and Vanya Hollis to trial this hands-on cooking and nutrition programming at Manual Arts in South LA. In the next year, RootDown LA officially formed and Ramirez ended up moving back from San Francisco, a return to her old neighborhood, to also teach at Manual Arts.
Fast forward to NOW – Hollis, Ramirez, and T. Hanson have all moved over to teach at Augustus Hawkins High School, and RootDown LA has secured a major grant to expand programming through its partnership with WECAN Foundation to reach kids in this innovative new school.
Follow all that? Probably not, but we’re still shaking our heads and grinning, hardly believing how the planets have aligned to rejoin this group of us (and now so many others!) who are eager to create hands-on learning experiences that engage kids to help build healthier communities in South LA.