The Food Project: Youth. Food. Community.

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Leading Youth, Connecting Communities

Briana before a build day.
Briana before a build day.
In August, The Food Project embarked on its second year as the Massachusetts host site for FoodCorps, a national nonprofit organization that works with schools to create a healthier school food environment. What follows is the fourth of a series of blogs profiling the FoodCorps members who are serving at The Food Project during the 2012-13 school year.

 

As a young child, stomach problems and other food sensitivities forced FoodCorps service member Briana Iacovetta to think frequently about what was in her food and how it affected her body. Over the years of reading ingredient labels and shopping at health food stores, she cultivated a strong interest in food and health. Now, Briana serves as a FoodCorps service member with The Food Project in Lynn, Mass.

Briana first encountered The Food Project through her interest in social justice and youth development. While at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., she had studied social work and volunteered and interned at multiple local nonprofit organizations. Following her graduation, Briana worked as a crew leader in The Food Project's Summer Youth Program on the North Shore of eastern Massachusetts and served through AmeriCorps as the volunteer and outreach coordinator at Girls Incorporated. She loved the relationship building aspect of her job at Girls Inc, and was attracted to FoodCorps as an opportunity to serve directly with youth in her community.

As a FoodCorps service member, Briana helps to lead teenagers in The Food Project's North Shore Academic Year Program. The group of youth, called D.I.R.T. Crew (Dynamic, Intelligent, Responsible Teenagers), lead volunteers on The Food Project's farms, build raised bed gardens for local residents, and volunteer at hunger relief organizations. In addition, Briana introduces the teens to issues such as food justice, hunger, food insecurity, and cooking through a series of workshops.

This fall, Briana and D.I.R.T. Crew collaborated with the Cape Ann Backyard Growers to build 30 raised bed gardens in people’s backyards and at community housing sites. They also revitalized 42 existing raised bed gardens so that they will be ready for planting in the spring. "It was a really cool project," says fellow service member Leah Jones, "because it allowed [the teens] to interact with so many different types of residents in Gloucester and encourage them to grow their own food."

Over the course of the year, Briana hopes to get her teenagers more involved in their community by involving them in many different aspects of The Food Project's work. On Saturday mornings in the spring and fall, they interact with volunteers from all over the North Shore as they lead them on the farm. In the winter, they meet staff and clients at various hunger relief organizations. This year, they will also help at community events. For example, they hope to run a cider press at a parents' event at Ingalls Elementary School, the site of one of TFP's urban farms in Lynn. In addition, Briana hopes to involve her teens in community decision-making processes such as starting community gardens.

For Briana, a very important part of the job is helping her youth work hard to meet their personal goals. "It's just amazing to see how youth grow into themselves during D.I.R.T. Crew," says Briana. She recalls the experience of coaching one D.I.R.T. Crew member who has hearing loss to make a presentation and lead adult volunteers at the farm. She was terrified of public speaking and was nervous to speak in front of a large group. In the weeks leading up to her presentation, she worked closely with Briana after school to practice and build confidence. "The moment she gave her presentation was very powerful," says Briana. "Although it wasn't the most polished presentation I've heard, knowing how hard she worked and where she had started made hearing her presentation powerful for myself, her family, and all of D.I.R.T. Crew."

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