Local Youths Learning and Growing in More Ways Than One with YouthFEAST

Oct. 21, 2016 — Members of the Quadsimia team recently attended a very special dinner at Boilermaker headquarters. The food on that night's menu was grown, prepared, and served by twenty local Utica youths in the Boilermaker Urban Garden. A collaboration between Cornell Cooperative Extension, Rust 2 Green, Oneida County, the New York Department of Health and the Boilermaker Road Race, the Urban Garden is maintained by youth from Oneida County Youth Employment, as well as volunteer master gardeners, and features both vegetables and flowers. The courses of the dinner included ratatouille, three bean salad, mashed potatoes, sautéed kale, and vegetable quesadillas.

YouthFEAST is named after an Oregon-based program which stands for Food, Education, Agriculture Solutions Together. Created to help communities address problems in their food systems, YouthFEAST helps educate local youths from the Utica area about the food system by growing the foods themselves. Along with caring for and taking pride in growing these foods (some of them being vegetables that the teens themselves have never seen or heard of), the group learns about the growth process, how to harvest, and even how to prepare various meals using the food grown. They YouthFEAST started as a pilot program this past summer, with more programming planned for the rest of the year. Up to twenty local teens from local families that qualify for SNAP benefits are chosen to take care of the Boilermaker Urban Garden (or BUG, for short).

West Utica has been the main focus of the YouthFEAST program. It has been referred to as "ground zero" for diet-related diseases by Environmental Change Educator Debra Richardson from the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County's EatSmartNY program. In Utica, only 26 percent of adults eat the recommended minimum five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. In addition to these startling statistics, almost 40% of middle and high school students in the area are overweight or obese, according to the program's proposal. Combined with the difficulty of finding healthy foods in West Utica, the program aims to make a difference in both the teen's lives, as well as the community. Learning skills such as teamwork and communication, the teens, like the food they are growing, will flourish and prosper.

For more information on the Boilermaker Urban Garden or the YouthFEAST program, please visit the Boilermaker's website at www.boilermaker.com.



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