Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Webinar: Teen Earth Optimism – Exploring Food Security and Urban Gardening

Webinar: Teen Earth Optimism – Exploring Food Security and Urban Gardening
Aired August 4, 2020

Meaghan:
All right. Hello everyone. Thank you so much for joining us today. My name is Meaghan Cuddy. I'm a museum educator at the National Museum of Natural History. Thank you so much for joining us for our summer edition of Teen Tuesday Earth Optimism Program. I'm so excited to have you all join us today. We are going to be talking all about food and food sustainability today. It's going to be really awesome. Thanks for joining us.

Our program's going to be about 45 minutes today. We're going to be talking about gardening and community education and how that can help increase food access and sustainability in cities like mine, Washington, D.C. We're going to be talking to City Blossoms Youth Entrepreneurship Cooperative program manager, Lauren Newman, as well as the Smithsonian Conservation Commons, Mellon/ACLS public fellow and social scientist, Dr. Bathsheba BryantTarpeh, and a local teen who works with City Blossoms as part of their Mighty Greens business, Jadyn. All of them are really excited to talk to you today. We are going to have a really great program. Thank you so much for joining.

While everyone is joining, you can use that Q&A button on the bottom of your screen to let us know where you're joining us from. While our museum is closed, our educators are coming to you from our homes here in Washington, D.C., and we'd love to know where you're joining us from. Feel free to type in on that Q&A box, the one with two speech bubbles, and let us know where you're joining us from.

Since today's program is all about food, we'd love to know, how is food important to you and your family? You can use that Q&A button to tell us where you're from and to also tell us about your experience with food. We got some people joining us. Amy from Washington, D.C., and Guff from Virginia. Welcome. You can all write in on that Q&A box. Vinyan from Maryland. Jessie from Seattle. Hi. Got some other people from D.C.. Haley joining us from Arlington, Virginia. Hello, Haley. Lots of D.C. people. Hi.

All right. You guys can keep writing in and let us know where you're joining us from. We're so excited to have you with us today. Throughout our program, we invite you to join our conversation and you can write in with questions in that Q&A box that you're writing into right now to share your questions or your experiences with our guests at any time during today's program. But we're going to be asking most of our questions at the end. If you'd like to stick around to get your question answered, definitely stay till the end of our program.

Do keep in mind that your comments are only going to be visible to our staff, so please definitely keep them on topic for us. All right. Looks like we have some more people joining us. A couple more people from D.C., some people from Williamsburg, Virginia. Awesome to have you guys all here with us. Thank you so much for coming today.

All right. It looks like just about everyone is here, so we are going to get started. Like I said, this is our Teen Tuesday Earth Optimism Program. This summer, we are talking to science experts, local nonprofits, and engaged teens in our community to learn about how science and action can come together to make changes possible on our planet. We hope that these conversations can inspire you to get involved in your own community wherever you may be joining us from. I'm really excited to introduce all of our guests for today. We are going to get right to it. First we have Lauren Newman from City Blossoms. Lauren, hi, how are you?

Lauren:
Hi, Meaghan.

Meaghan:
How's it going?

Lauren:
Doing well. How are you?

Meaghan:
I'm doing well. Thank you so much for joining us today. Can you tell us a little bit about what you do at City Blossoms?

Lauren:
Sure, I'd love to. As the Youth Entrepreneurship Cooperative Program Manager, first of all, that's a mouthful. Whenever I mention it, I'll probably just say YEC, pretty simple. But one of my chief responsibilities as that program manager is to be the mentor for our Mighty Greens youth staff. I facilitate programming at schools, at two high schools in D.C. throughout the school year, and then we also have a more intensive summer youth employment program that reaches students from all over D.C.

Meaghan:
Cool. I'm really excited to talk to you a little bit more about what you guys do and all of the really amazing programming City Blossoms is up to. Thank you so much for joining us.

Lauren:
Yeah, glad to be here.

Meaghan:
Thanks. All right. We also have Jadyn who is a participant in City Blossom's Youth Entrepreneurship Cooperative program. Jadyn, how are you?

Jadyn:
Hi, I'm good.

Meaghan:
Thank you so much for being here today, Jadyn. It's good to see you.

Jadyn:
Thank you for having me.

Meaghan:
Of course. Can you tell us how old are you and where do you go to school and where do you live?

Jadyn:
I'm 16. I live in Washington, D.C., and I go to school at Eastern Senior High School.

Meaghan:
Awesome. Really cool to have you here. Thank you for spending some of your summer with us. Finally, we have Bathsheba Bryant-Tarpeh of the Smithsonian Conservation Commons. Bathsheba, how are you?

Bathsheba:
Hi. Hello Meaghan. I'm doing well.

Meaghan:
Good to see you. Thank you so much for joining us. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Bathsheba:
Sure, yeah. Thank you so much for having me, Meaghan. I'm a social scientist and ethnographer. This essentially means that I study human societies, cultures, and social relationships. In terms of global development or international development, I'm really interested in how indigenous in rural communities, particularly the women in these communities, utilize resources, so natural resources to support their livelihoods and their food and nutrition needs.

Meaghan:
Okay, cool. That is really interesting work. I'm really excited to have all three of you here to join us today to talk about these really interesting and important issues. Thank you so much all for joining us. Jadyn, we do have a couple people who are watching who are specifically saying "Hi" to you, so I think you might have some friends who are joining our call today.

Today, we are talking about one of my favorite topics. Food is definitely my favorite thing to indulge in and something really important to talk about. That's something that really impacts every part of our life, sustainability, our health, our culture. I'm really excited to dig into this with you all today. Bathsheba, as a social scientist, you study food security and international development. To kick us off, can you talk a little bit about what food security is and how it impacts people's lives?

Bathsheba:
Yeah, sure. Thank you for the question, Meaghan. Food security is something that's really important. In terms of international and global development, when we think of food security, we know that it exists when all people at all times have the physical, social, and economic capabilities to access food that supports their lifestyles, to have a healthy life, and just to meet their dietary needs. That's what food security is.

In terms of looking at just more detailed components of food security, there are four major pillars of food security. When we think about food security, we think about availability of food. This entails looking at food production, food imports, and even markets, and then access of food. This really involves infrastructure and transportation, and looking at how food is distributed within a local area or region, and even the affordability of food.

Lastly, utilization and consumption. This something that involves looking at food safety and the quality of food. The stability of all of these three components at all times is what really constitutes what food security is. As you mentioned, Meaghan, food security is something that touches all of our lives. On a global scale, according to the World Food Security and Nutrition report last year, there were 821 million people around the world that were suffering from hunger. This is a huge number when you think about the world population. In parts of the global south, so when we look at the continent of Africa, for example, one in five people suffer from hunger or malnutrition. This is something that we really look at in terms of global development of how we can address these issues so people can have a better way of living and how they can attain their nutrition for overall health.

Meaghan:
It's amazing to me that this is still something that in 2020, so many people around the world don't have access to healthy food or regular food, or just the basic things that they need to get food. What are some of the major barriers that are preventing people from having access to food?

Bathsheba:
Yeah, this is a great question. There's so many different factors depending on what country you're looking at and from community and local context. But overall, there are a few major factors that we think about in terms of what is causing food insecurity. Economic issues and poverty, that's a critical issue when we think about how people have the ability to access food and be able to afford food. We're also look at, on a global scale, on places where there's conflict, or social or political unrest, food systems often become fractured. People are not able to access food that they need in those times of conflict. Climate change is something that we're all grappling around in the world right now. Climate change greatly impacts people's ability to produce food and farm and how it's distributed throughout the world. These are just some of the major barriers and factors that we think about in terms of food and security.

Meaghan:
Yeah, it's amazing how much this touches on so many aspects of life from environmental issues, to social and cultural and political issues. It all is tied up in this issue of food and getting the food that we need. Thank you so much, Bathsheba, for giving us that context.

Lauren, we're going to dig in a little bit to how this is impacting us here in D.C., but before we get into that, we actually have a question for all of our viewers. A poll is going to come up on your screen. We'd like to know, where do you get most of your food from? Do you get it from the grocery store? Do you get it from stores like Walmart or Target? Do you get your food directly from growers, or do you happen to grow it yourself, or do you not know where you get your food from? Which is totally fine too. We're going to leave that poll running for a little while and check in with you guys in a little bit. But Lauren, I'd like to talk to you a little about your role at City Blossoms. You are, as you said, the YEC at City Blossoms, which I think is a great acronym. But can you tell us a little about how food security is playing out here in D.C. and how City Blossoms is working to increase access and increase understanding of this?

Lauren:
Yeah, first, I want to thank Bathsheba for just giving that excellent context for what food security even means. Even though we're in the nation's capital, in a very wealthy nation, those disparities still exist. Food insecurity and inaccessibility are two issues that impact a pretty large subset of D.C. residents.

According to the Capital Area Food Bank, about one out of every 10 residents suffers from food insecurity. Nearly one-third of those people are children.
Beyond food and security, we have the issue of food access that's complicated by the lack of fresh food options in some areas of D.C.. When I talk about some areas of D.C., I'm thinking particularly about Wards Seven and Eight. If you look at the photo that we have right here, Ward Eight is the big blue, dark blue section, and then Ward Seven is the brown section. In these two areas of D.C., there are only three grocery stores servicing 150,000 residents. When you look at how many grocery stores are present in the entire city of D.C., there are 49. Just to put that into perspective, the 82,000 residents of Ward Six are served by 10 grocery stores, while Ward seven and eight only have three, combined. You can see that there's a huge disparity that exists, and then compounded by the fact that Ward Seven and Eight are where the highest levels of poverty exist in this city.

We have full-service grocery stores in neighborhoods of Ward Seven and Eight replaced by things like corner stores, liquor stores, fast food restaurants that are then being accessed by these communities instead of this access for fresh, nutritious food.

At City Blossoms, we have a mission to help to cultivate the holistically healthy communities in D.C. through the use of creative, kid-driven gardens. We recognize this deep inequity that exists in our city when it comes to access to fresh, healthy, locally grown foods. We maintain our gardens across the city to help close this gap. Mighty Greens, as the business, they have their own mission and goals, but Jadyn can speak definitely more on that.

Meaghan:
Awesome. Thank you so much Lauren. It's really interesting to talk a little about these global trends that Bathsheba works on where we have these big regional differences, but we also see that play out on a local scale here in a city in the United States. We see these significant disparities happening as well. As you said, Jadyn is a part of the Mighty Greens business. Jadyn, I'd love to talk to you a little bit about what Mighty Greens is and what you guys do. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Jadyn:
Of course. Mighty Greens is a youth-led cooperative business. We have... Should I share our mission right now, or just tell you?

Meaghan:
Yeah, go ahead.

Jadyn:
Okay. Our mission is to improve access to healthy foods in our communities. Some of our goals include growing, selling, and donating to our communities using sustainable and organic practices. We promote food justice and learning, and we learn and apply business and life skills. There's two schools that we're based out of right now, two high schools. We both do the same thing, [inaudible 00:15:51] garden and we make a difference.

Meaghan:
That is awesome. I think it is so cool that as a young person, you are a business person. I was not anywhere near a business person when I was your age, so I think that is really cool. Can you tell us a little bit about what you guys do on a daily basis in Might Greens and what you're most interested in?

Jadyn:
Well, it really depends on what has to be done during the day. Usually, we'll come in and water all of our plants if we're growing anything. If we need to plant something, then we'll plant it. If we need to talk about our business side, or an upcoming event that we're doing, like a Farmer's Market, or something like Rooting D.C., then we'll do that. It really just depends on what needs to be done during the day.

Meaghan:
That is so cool. I'm really excited to dig into everything that you guys are getting into in Mighty Greens, because I know you're working on a lot of really cool projects. Just to let you guys know, we have our results of our poll that came in. 88% of our viewers get most of their food from grocery stores and 9% get most of their food from big box stores like Walmart or Target. I think it's really interesting to see where the people who are joining us today are getting their food from. Thank you all for sharing that with us.

We're going to move on to another part of this conversation. Food is such an important part of our culture and our communities. We've talked a little about the importance of nutrition and having access to healthy food, but I'd like to talk about this connection between sustainability and community development, because I know all of you guys are interested in that as well. Lauren, can you tell us a little bit about how those two topics, sustainability and development of communities, interact in the work that City Blossoms is doing?

Lauren:
Yeah. Our baseline is that food is essential for all life. Naturally, it is a great connector and community building tool. But another thing that we're facing is that our food system has gotten to be so unsustainable because people are so disconnected from it. Right now, we're living in a way that convenience takes all. Our everyday lives, we're seeing the result that we have devalued the natural environment. We're seeing that impact on sustaining, being able to sustain our way of life.

Our gardens help communities relearn this connectedness and interdependence with the food system and create a tangible farm-to-table experience right in your backyard, or your neighborhood, making it really accessible. But before we even think about building a garden in a community, one of our key tenets is that we wait until we are invited in, because too many times we see projects with the best intentions fail because they are missing one vital component and that is community buy-in and support. The whole process, from the type of programming that will be offered in the space, to the garden design and the type of plants that will be grown, is informed by the community. That, I think, is what makes our gardens and programs successful and sustainable.

Meaghan:
That is awesome. I think it is really interesting to think about this idea that we don't have a lot of connection to our food anymore. Like we saw when our viewers responded, most of them, and me, get our food from grocery stores, from stores like Target and Walmart. We don't necessarily have that connection to the land and to what's actually growing. Working with those communities I think is really amazing. Can you tell us a little bit about the programs that City Blossoms does?

Lauren:
Sure. We're a small organization but we stay busy. We have five programmatic areas that we predominantly focus in on. One of those programs would be our open times at our community green spaces. That's when we welcome community members to participate in programming at those community green spaces. We have a You Help You Harvest policy where anyone who comes can take produce home with them. We also have a early growers program that works with primarily early childhood centers and preschools to establish that early interaction and relationship with nature, nature-based play. We have our School Garden Partners program where we contract with elementary, middle and some high schools across the city and help them establish garden based curriculums at their institutions. We have our Youth entrepreneurship cooperative that works with high schoolers, predominantly at Eastern and Cardozo, through the Mighty Greens business. Finally, we have our trainings and resource development that helps bring our methodology to communities all over the country.

Meaghan:
That is so cool. I think it's really amazing that this type of work, you're talking about working on a small scale, a local scale here in D.C., but this type of programming and this type of project is something that can really be applied to any community, as long as you have that community buy-in and people are interested in engaging in this. It's something that really can be applied to communities all over, and is really important to communities all over. But like you said, these programs don't work unless the people who are on the ground want them.

Jadyn, I know that you are a really important part of what City Blossoms does, the youth programs, and you are part of Mighty Greens business, as you said. It's amazing that you guys are running your own small business. Can you tell us a little bit more about it, and how you got involved and what you guys are working on right now?

Jadyn:
How I got involved is not the usual way that people get involved. I was staying after at school with one of my teachers just to catch up on some work. Someone that I know came out of a classroom and screamed, "Who wants community service hours and who wants to garden?" I'm pretty sure he also said, "Who wants to make food?", too. I went into the classroom and Miss Lauren was there with someone else that's a part of our business. They were just so welcoming and made me feel like I could actually ... Oh, there's me. Made me feel like I could make a difference. I just stayed and I never left.

Meaghan:
That is so cool. It is amazing that you have become so involved in this. I know you guys produce lots of stuff. What are some of the products and things that you sell?

Jadyn:
We make different herbal teas that we have the tea leaves. We make body butter, chia blossom vinegar, and I believe ... Oh, and my favorite, herb salt. I almost forgot. Eastern and Cardozo, we both make separate herb salts and we bring them together in our pop-up shops that we go to. It's a long ongoing debate on which one is better.

Meaghan:
I will leave the debating up to you guys because I'm sure they're all wonderful. I definitely would love to get some samples at some point, I'm not going to lie, but can you tell us a little about what you enjoy about being part of Mighty Greens? Also, what you've learned being a part of Mighty Greens?

Jadyn:
I think what I enjoy the most is feeling like I can actually make a difference because I'm definitely younger than everyone here. You all have these fancy titles. You all can actively make a difference. For a while, I thought that I couldn't do that. I think that ... Mighty Greens made me feel like I can make a difference. That's probably what I enjoy the most. What was the other question?

Meaghan:
What do you enjoy most about it?

Jadyn:
Well, okay, so I just told you what I enjoy most.

Meaghan:
What have you learned? What are some of the big things you've taken away from this experience?

Jadyn:
Well, I've learned how to garden. That's the first thing, because I didn't even know how to do that. I've learned public speaking skills. I've learned how to network. I've learned how to make a difference as a high schooler. I've learned how to teach other people how to make a difference, which I think is one of the biggest parts.

Meaghan:
Absolutely. I think sharing what you've learned and sharing your very clear enthusiasm and passion and all that you've gotten out of this is a really important part of this. Thank you so much for being here and sharing it with everyone viewing this program today. City Blossoms is clearly doing some really, really amazing work.

Bathsheba, Jadyn and Lauren have told us a little about how food sustainability and food security are impacting people here in D.C., but as you said, this is something that impacts people everywhere. Can you tell us a little about your perspective on this, working on an international scale?

Bathsheba:
Yes, sure. My entry point to looking at issues of food insecurity and nutrition, particularly in Africa, which has been my regional focus, has always been through a justice and human rights lens. This is something that I'm really passionate about and so many people around the world that we don't realize being here and growing up in the United States have to grapple with and deal with on a daily basis in terms of accessing food and being able to have the nutrition that they need to sustain their livelihoods. This is particularly really important to me.

I've done work in the northern region of Ghana. In the northern savanna region of Ghana, which is a country in West Africa, I worked with the Dagomba people, which is an ethnic group, indigenous [inaudible 00:26:27]. Woman, in particular, play a huge role in community development and overall role development. Women are often responsible for producing food that's very high in nutrition, such as vegetables, things like okra and leafy greens, that really add the nutrition that's really needed for the meals that they prepare for their families and the community, where men tend to just produce more of the staple food crops. It's really important, women's contribution to community development and producing food for the community and also allocating nutrition at the household level.

Oftentimes, in this area, and even in other parts of Africa and parts of the developing world, women often, even though they have this really critical role, they don't have equal rights or access to land and resources. This creates a human rights issue when it comes to how some parts of the society, some populations such as women, but not only women are treated or discriminated against sometimes, in terms of accessing land and rights.

This is a critical issue. Women's rights and how it connects to overall community food and nutrition security is a huge issue when we think about all of these things in terms of global development on an international scale. Also looking at climate change. The Dagomba communities, the communities that I worked with, have definitely noticed changes over the last decade or so in terms of climate and how that's having a direct impact on their food production. They've noticed that with the increasing of temperatures and there's very little rainfall, or not as much rainfall as there was previously, like a decade ago, they're noticing that their food production is declining greatly. They're noticing also that they're not able to harvest enough food to last them throughout the year because there's a planting season and then a dry season where people have to have food reserves.

Even they used to be able to make or have enough surplus food to sell at the market to help with income. They're noticing that they're not able to do that anymore. Climate change is a huge issue in terms of food justice and people having the things that they need to support themselves and their livelihoods. While I was there in Ghana, I was able to meet with women's and men's farmers groups and connect them with resources and local non-governmental organizations, our NGOs, to make sure that they had training of how to adapt to climate and be able to produce enough food.

One thing that we were able to have the communities advocate for themselves to the local chiefs for their community needs. One thing in particular was a water irrigation system. That allows farming and food production throughout the dry season to help improve productivity and the amount of food that people can have throughout the year. That's something that's really, really important to me. I think it's really cool to see how people are addressing these issues all around the world.

Meaghan:
I think it's really interesting to see how even on the difference in scale, from D.C. to what's going on in the nation of Ghana, we see similar issues of people not necessarily having the resources they need and seeing those disparities, but also that these communities are really able to advocate for themselves and they know what they need.

Jadyn, I know you've seen some disparities in your own community. You've seen differences in access to food in your own school, in your own community. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience with that?

Jadyn:
Of course. I have access to food. For a while, I just thought that I ... I didn't think it was as big as it actually was, and that is totally on me. But at my school, well, when we were in school, I could see that there were people that had to come to school early just to get the breakfast that our school provided, or they would stay late to get whatever was left after lunch. For me to think that someone that's my age, that we're both in the same team together, we both play sports together, but they have to do something and they don't have the same access that I have, it's frustrating to me.

Meaghan:
Absolutely. It's super frustrating. It's amazing that something that is so basic to all of us, food that we need to eat, and healthy access to good food is something that not everyone has, even in this day and age. This has been a really amazing conversation. All three of you have been so wonderful to talk to so far. I'd like to move on to one last topic before we start our viewer Q&A. Because food is so integral to all of our lives, I'd like to talk a little bit about how food has been a part of your lives. Bathsheba, can you tell us a little about your background and how you became interested in working on food security and development?

Bathsheba:
Sure. Yes, I grew up in northern Virginia in Prince William County, not far from Washington, D.C. What really inspired me are my first introduction into looking at food and role development in agriculture, was visiting my grandparents in Louisiana. in a small town called Boise in central Louisiana, our family owns a farm. This family farm has been in our family since 1945. It means a lot to me because it was purchased by my great-grandfather at a time where it was really difficult and challenging for African American families to not only purchase land, but also to hold on to land due to severe discrimination and racism in the deep South. That was spending time with my grandparents and relatives really inspired me to look at these issues and how communities really rely on the land to provide for themselves.

Further on, my family connections, both my parents actually are retired now, but they worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. My mom focused on civil rights in her work. My dad worked for the Forest Service for many years, first as a forest ranger, but then moving on to policy and conservation issues. I think it's something that I always grew up with. I know their careers definitely influenced me. As I grew older, in college, I attended Spelman College, which is a historically a black women's college. There, I took a year long course called Africa Diaspora and the World. This course took a holistic approach at looking at the historical experiences of people of African descent through a very woman-centered lens. I really started to see the connections of people of African descent all over the world in terms of injustices and inequality in ways that they have resisted, as well as looking at social movements to combat some of these issues.

That led me to do my Ph.D. I came back to Washington, D.C., to attend Howard University and I got my Ph.D. in African studies with a global development policy focus. I was able to really meld together all of my interests of women's issues, and looking at food and environmental justice issues on a global scale. These are some of my experiences of what brought me to doing the work and the research and working with communities that I've been able to do now in my career and throughout graduate school. I really think that working on these issues, I'm able to influence policy, but then also empower communities, which is something very important to me.

Meaghan:
Absolutely. You have had such an amazing path to your career. The work that you do is so incredible and so cool. Thank you for sharing a little bit with us. I know when you and I first met, we bonded over the fact that we had both lived in Louisiana. I lived there for a little while as well, and now I live in D.C. Lauren, I know you live in D.C. and are from the area. Can you tell us a little about your personal relationship with the work that you do and with urban gardening?

Lauren:
Yeah. First, yeah, I want to second what Meaghan said. Bathsheba, your background and how it's informed your work is just really inspiring for me to hear, especially being still pretty early on in my career. I definitely think that, your goals, so thank you. Thank you for being an inspiration.

Bathsheba:
Thank you.

Lauren:
But yes, Meaghan, I was born and raised, for the most part, in D.C. I moved around a little bit, but ... I've moved around a lot. That's a long story. But I grew up going to the Columbia Heights Youth Center for summer camp and then for after school care because my dad worked just up the street at the Alliance of Concerned Men. It was at this Columbia Heights Youth Center that I first encountered urban gardening through a newly built, actually, City Blossoms community green space.

I was 10 going on 11 years old. At the time, I was a bookworm/still are, still am a bookworm. I'd spend my time outside in the shade reading by the garden gate. One day one of the City Blossom staff members came out and just welcomed me into the garden and let me just dig in the beds, taste some of the fresh tomatoes. I just remember just being so amazed by the abundance of life that was present in my city, in this garden. From that day forward, I just never passed up an opportunity to be in the garden. As I grew up through middle school and high school, I started doing internship with City Blossoms. I started pursuing more environmental education. I ended up going to Sewanee, the University of the South in Tennessee, to study environment sustainability with a focus on local food systems. That ultimately led me back to my home, D.C., to run the Youth Entrepreneurship Cooperative with City Blossoms.

Meaghan:
That is amazing. You have had a really full circle story. I think that's such a great story. Thank you also for sharing it with us. Jadyn, I know that you are really involved in Mighty Greens' business, of course. It's been a big part of your life this year. Can you tell us a little bit about what you'd like to do next with everything that you've learned and experienced as a part of this business?

Jadyn:
Sure. Ms. Lauren has inspired me, basically. I hope to go to college. I'm in my senior year of high school now, so I hope to attend college so that I can also major in environmental sustainability, but minor in business so that I can eventually start a non-profit organization, specifically here in the DMV, but if it spreads, it spreads, that works on giving access to the necessities that people need in Wards Seven and Eight. Access to grocery stores and food, and then access to hospitals and healthcare.

Meaghan:
That is incredible. That is an amazing goal. I have absolutely no doubt that you will achieve all of that and more. People like you are the next faces of this movement in propelling this issue forward. We're really lucky to have people like you involved, Jadyn. I know probably a lot of people around your age are watching today. They might be interested in doing something like Mighty Greens in their own community, or getting involved in food security in their community in some way. Is there anything that you would like to share with them, or any words of wisdom that you'd like to pass on?

Jadyn:
Yeah. If you're my age, you can definitely help out. There's no excuse or any reason holding you back. If you want to do something, then just go do it. If you want to make a difference, just go online. There's nonprofits everywhere. There's organizations everywhere that are focusing around helping people. If that's what you want to do, it's not hard to do.

Meaghan:
Absolutely. There really is a place for everyone in things like this. I think that City Blossoms and Bathsheba, the work that you do, and Mighty Greens are all wonderful examples of the fact that food is something that connects us all and we can all be involved in solving these issues of food security in our cities, in our country, and even around the world. Thank you all so much for sharing everything with us today.

Our program is called Earth Optimism. We like to end on an optimistic note and think a little bit about how we can move the needle forward on issues like food access. Before we open it up to Q&A, can each of you share something that makes you feel optimistic that you've seen or learned in your work with our audiences. Bathsheba, we'll start with you.

Bathsheba:
Sure, yes. I'm very optimistic. I think there's so many community grassroots organizations like City Blossoms and all around the world that are doing this work and really helping people empower themselves to be able to sustain their livelihoods and develop their local food systems, which I think is really important. I spent time, example of this, in South Africa at the Sustainability Institute. It's this really unique community. It's one of the first racially and class diverse communities in South Africa. While I was there, it's really an experiment in how to address and heal from apartheid, the systemic oppression based on race that happened in the country. It's bringing the diverse people together. There's a community garden and people get to learn about the connections between food and the environment. I think it's a real testament into addressing social justice issues and using food and nutrition as a tool to do that. I think that's something, work is being done all over the world like this. I think my time at the Sustainability Institute in South Africa really helped cement those ideas for me that people can really help empower themselves. That's why I'm optimistic.

Meaghan:
Absolutely. That is such another cool part of your work. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. Lauren, how about you?

Lauren:
Yeah, I'd have to agree with Bathsheba that the grassroots food movement, in general, has continued to inspire me and motivate me to continue fighting for climate justice because it just makes it that much more connected to our everyday life. I think that more and more people are starting to wake up and recognize the dangers of our current industrial food system and our current conveniences that we take for granted. They're starting to demand those changes, and making decisions that support smaller local farms who are using those more sustainable practices, or even learning how to grow their own food themselves. I know that the DPR, the D.C. Parks and Recreation Center group in D.C., holds workshops throughout the year. The sign-ups fill up so fast because people are so invested in learning these skills on how to start a compost, how to grow your own food, things like that. That really gives me hope. Another thing that keeps me optimistic is just the endless enthusiasm of the youth, like Jadyn, that I get to work with. They give me hope because they're the future. I'm just really, really thankful that they are so driven and I get to see that in my work. It's pretty uplifting.

Meaghan:
Absolutely. I think it must be so amazing to get to work with these really cool young people on a daily basis. Jadyn, how about you? What makes you optimistic or hopeful for the future?

Jadyn:
Programs that are similar to Mighty Greens. I think that if we continue to give people my age the opportunity to help people and show them that they can, then they will. The more programs there are and the more people that are spreading awareness to people my age, the more difference that we'll be able to make.

Meaghan:
Absolutely. And today, that is you, Jadyn, and Bathsheba and Lauren. Thank you guys all so much for being a part of this really amazing conversation. We're going to open it up to our audience Q&A, if you guys have some time to answer some questions.

Viewers, if you have questions for Bathsheba, Lauren, and Jadyn, now is your time to ask them. You can put your questions in our Q&A box. You can type them in and ask us any questions that you have about career paths, interest in food security and sustainability, or how you could get involved in similar types of programs where you live. Feel free to type in your questions now and we will get to as many of them as we can.

Jadyn, Lauren, Bathsheba, we already have some questions coming in. Damaris would like to know, how could you get involved in programs like this virtually? We're living in this time of everything virtual. Lauren, how are you guys adapting to this virtual space?

Lauren:
Yeah, great question. We actually had to do our entire summer youth employment program virtually this year, which was a challenge but a blessing because that meant that I was still able to work with the youth that I had developed relationships with at Eastern, and then also some new youth that had no background with Mighty Greens or the business, or City Blossoms. This was an opportunity for us to really think outside the box, how can we create an entry point to our program that is so hands-on and connected to being outside? How do we do that over the computer screen? We did a few different types of activities. We did talks where we went through what is Mighty Greens, gave some background. We did business discussions. We developed a action response plan to how we're going to keep our business relevant and running in the midst of all this uncertainty. We have created avenues for students to get involved with Mighty Greens virtually. We're still trying to figure out how to do that this fall when it's not necessarily a set number of summer-youth-employed youth staff.

Meaghan:
It definitely is a challenge, but you guys seem up to it and you have still been doing some really amazing work. Congratulations on that.

Lauren:
Thank you.

Meaghan:
Bathsheba, we have a question for you. Binyam asks, I want to work in Africa. Do you have any advice on working there and working on these issues there?

Bathsheba:
Oh yeah. That's a great question. I think one of the unique programs that a lot of people, I know a lot of friends have done, is Peace Corps. They volunteered through Peace Corps for two years and you get placed in a country outside of the U.S. to do global development projects. It could be to address food security or water insecurity in a certain area, or to provide business support for how communities can further develop their business. There's a lot of different things you can do in that area, but there's many organizations out there that allow students, high school students, and even younger, to travel to Africa and do volunteer or service projects. Yeah, I think I would just suggest looking and doing a Google search and looking online for different programs that cater to teens so you can be able to travel and really be engaged.

Meaghan:
There are so many great opportunities out there. Thanks for sharing them Bathsheba. Jadyn, we have some questions coming in for you as well. First of all, some people saying that you're doing amazing work, so kudos to you. Where can people find the products that you guys sell as part of Mighty Greens? Do you have an online option for purchasing products?

Jadyn:
Currently, we are only doing things like ... Well, we were only doing things in person, going to the farmer's markets and pop-up shops, but over SYEP, we have decided to start offering things online. We haven't really decided how that's going to work, but we know we're going to be creating websites. You should probably ask Ms. Lauren, how that's going to work, because I don't know if we can ship things to people.

Meaghan:
Any updates, Lauren, or not yet?

Lauren:
We are thinking about the feasibility of that, cost-wise. I don't think that shipping will be an option, but we are thinking about if we will incorporate more frequent community pop-up markets that, of course, will practice proper social distancing, but offering a CSA, community supported agriculture bundle, and then maybe partnering with some local organizations to maybe incorporate our products into their CSAs. There's a few different avenues in which we're considering, but nothing is concrete yet.

Meaghan:
That makes lots of sense. I feel very lucky that I live in D.C., so I get to visit you guys at things like farmer's markets, but I would definitely encourage our viewers to look into what's going on in their own community and support farmer's markets and local growers and businesses in their own communities as well. Jadyn, we have another question for you from Dia, who is 11 years old and would like to know how they can make a difference in their community.

Jadyn:
Well Dia, first you should probably talk to your parents about what you're allowed to do, but if you just go online, there's a lot of programs, like how City Blossoms has Early Growers, which are probably for people a little younger than you. There's most likely programs that you can get into and just go into community gardens and garden and help people and donate.

Meaghan:
That is awesome advice. Thanks Jadyn. We are a little bit ... Sorry, I was muted. We are a little bit over time, but we have some great questions coming in. If you all have a couple more minutes, we'll take just a few more questions if you don't mind. Awesome. Bathsheba, we have a question for you from Lauren who would like to know, what can I pursue in college to prepare for a career in food sustainability? What are some other careers that are possible going into surrounding environment and agriculture?

Bathsheba:
Sure. I think you could make sure that you researched the college and program within colleges that you want to go to. I know, Lauren, I think majored in food systems and sustainability. That's something in looking at international development disciplines, as well, in agriculture or food science. There's so many different things on the science side, but then also, me as a social scientist, I'm looking at these issues in terms of being centered on people and the humanistic aspects of justice and equity. I think that you should really make sure that you're researching the colleges, the programs, and making sure that there's a program there that really connects you with looking at agricultural development, food science, as well as the social sciences in terms of food studies.

Meaghan:
Yeah, there are so many possible careers and possible things you can study related to this. I really think there's something for anyone, any kind of interest that you have, there is somewhere to put that passion in these types of issues. We have time for, I think, one or two more questions. One of our viewers would like to know, how is COVID-19 affecting food industry and supply? I think this is a really interesting question for any of you guys.

Lauren:
Yeah, I'll take a stab at that question. I know that a lot of people are having more faith in small producers and small farmers, and really having that assurance that they know where their food is coming from. That's also an equity issue, because there are obviously that requires a certain amount of income to be able to splurge a little bit more on your weekly groceries. In a lot of ways, COVID-19 has benefited smaller farms and small farmers. I think people are starting to reevaluate their disconnectedness with our food system. I think we are really starting to just ask questions about our food system, and also calling more attention to migrant workers who are in the fields working already in inhumane conditions, but then also being exposed to the virus and that social justice and health, public health concern. Yeah, COVID-19 is definitely impacting our food system and our food industry in a lot of ways.

Jadyn:
Can I add something?

Meaghan:
Yes, please.

Jadyn:
I also think that for people my age, I think that COVID-19 is making older people, not to call anyone old, but the generation above me, realize how big food insecurity, the issue of food insecurity is, because now the people that were relying on food from school, school is out. What are they supposed to do? I think that people are starting to realize that food insecurity is a much bigger issue than it actually was because of COVID-19.

Meaghan:
Absolutely. I think that's such a good point, Jadyn. Bathsheba, do you have anything else to add to that?

Bathsheba:
Sure, yeah. On an international or global scale, we're seeing a huge impact because of COVID-19 on communities' abilities to access seed, for example. In parts of Africa, West Africa, where seed companies are not able to distribute seeds because of the limitation and restriction of movement and transportation, because of COVID, they're not able to distribute seeds to regional and local markets. At this time of year where farmers are normally planting for food production, they don't have the necessary seeds or other agricultural inputs such as fertilizers because they can't access them. Another thing for very remote areas, in particular, in parts of the world, because of the restrictions on movement, they're not able to travel to their local market or to the closest city where they normally would purchase food. That's having a huge direct impact on household food and nutrition security because they're not able to access those resources.

Meaghan:
Thank you all. Those are such great responses. I think that's a really great note to end on. It really drives home just how important and how fragile these food systems can be. Thank you all for sharing all of your knowledge with us and all of the amazing work that you're doing. This has been such a wonderful conversation. I have learned so much, so I hope that our viewers have learned a lot too. We want to thank everyone for joining us today also and for all of your awesome questions. Thank you so much for participating.

 

Archived Webinar

The Zoom webinar with Dr. Bathsheba F. Bryant-Tarpeh, Lauren Newman, and Jadyn aired August 4, 2020, as part of the Teen Tuesday: Earth Optimism series. Watch a recording in the player above.

Description

What is food security and how is it connected to sustainability and social justice? Watch a conversation with Smithsonian Conservation Commons scholar Dr. Bathsheba F. Bryant-Tarpeh, who studies food access and international development; City Blossoms Youth Co-op Manager Lauren Newman; and Mighty Greens teen entrepreneur Jadyn. They discuss how food touches all aspects of our lives, how growing access to green spaces and healthy foods can change communities, and how you can green your own community through gardening!

Moderator: Museum Educator Meaghan Cuddy

Related Resources

Resource Type
Videos and Webcasts
Grade Level
6-8, 9-12
Topics
Social Studies