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By Charlotte Smith

The Youth Food Justice Summit 2.0 organized by Youth Ambassadors Program, a project of Men and Women United for Youth and Families was held the last weekend in May. The youth attended the summit held at Rockfish Camp and Retreat Center in Parkton, NC.

Youth from across the North Carolina continued to build their power, share stories, learn new skills, and deepen their understanding of how food relates to health, community, and climate justice at the weekend event according Randolph Keaton, with Men and Women United for Youth and Families. 

Founded in  2015, Youth Ambassadors for a Better Community (YABC) is a mission based youth leadership group. The mission is to increase the quantity, quality, and sustainability of community gardens across the tri-county area, while instilling leadership, entrepreneurship, and social skills with youth. The counties in the catchment area are Bladen, Brunswick and Columbus counties. However the summit helped educate more than the youth from the tri-county area. 

This program has grown tremendously, as a result the non-profit began serving the regional community in 2018 through expanded policy involvement and a new partnership with North Carolina State Universities Vacation Vittles Program.

Chance Holmes-Snowden from East Arcadia with the Youth Ambassador Program and Olivia with the Advisory Council

Chance Holmes-Snowden from East Arcadia with the Youth Ambassador Program explained the program as a “Youth Leadership Program/Environmental Sustainability program.” The program is a youth lead program in which Chance plays a leading role in currently. 

Recruited by Mr. Keaton to the program, Chance explained he was not fully on board with the food and justice movement until he realized how it affected him personally. 

“When I was younger, I had this mindset where I cared about the environment, but I was like how does this directly affect me, so once I found out how food justice and environmental sustainability and food insecurity directly impacted me that’s how I really got into the group and started to take a leadership role,” Chance said.

Three important components of the Youth Ambassadors are leadership, advocacy and food security, according to Chance. The program teaches its members how to grow food and how to be entrepreneurs among other skills. 

Chance said, “Where I am from, I live in the food desert, so what that means is, I have to drive at least 20 to 30 minutes to go to a Walmart or some place where they would sell food on like a mass scale for example. He continued, “What we are doing as the Youth Ambassadors out of our six gardens we are basically growing organic sustainable food so people like me don’t have to drive so far to get organic food.”

During the summit the youth attended education sessions, group meetings and team building exercises. Mr. Keaton said the weekend was a great success. He explained the summit allowed the youth to meet their peers from other areas, learn more about the social and environmental issues, and learn to work together even though they come from different backgrounds, beliefs and religions. 

Although the program is youth lead, the program just added an Advisory Council. The new council will be helping the Youth Ambassadors with exposure, as well as providing skill-building opportunities, leveraging our contacts/resources, and working hands-on for events as-needed, according to one of the council members, Olivia Percoco, Community Food Coordinator, Resourceful Communities with The Conservation Fund.

An immediate need for the Youth Ambassadors is farmers for the Vacation Viddles project. Vacation Viddles is a project where the youth sell vegetables in vacation spots teaching them farming and entrepreneurial skills. Anyone interested in assisting in the Viddles project please contact advisory council member, Ms. Susie Rockel at susanphyllis2010@hotmail.com.

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