A Root Crew member talks about her experience leading Growing Together, which brings together youth groups in Lynn and the surrounding communities for social and food system change.
By Elizabeth D., 17, Lynn
During our Root Crew retreat last year when we were introduced to Growing Together, I remember being scared. It sounded like a lot of work and public speaking that I wasn't exactly comfortable with or ready for. And our first Growing Together session was as chaotic and stressful as I expected. It was nerveracking and required a lot of practice and prepping—I studied my script like I've never done before, because I felt like the program was too important to mess up.
Growing Together for me was, and is still, a way to directly interact with members of our community as an organization and make specific change. During my first Growing Together session, I was so nervous when I saw the huge amount of people that we were going to be presenting to, but I was happy because I knew I was very prepared and that my crew had my back. As the program progressed I got more comfortable with the group, especially when we did the cultural sharing workshop. During cultural sharing, my group not only shared about our experiences but we connected as a whole.
A really interesting aspect of Growing Together that I enjoyed was that people from other communities besides The Food Project, such as Girls Inc. and KIPP, were participants. My favorite part was when we were building raised-bed gardens at Meadow Court, a senior housing complex in Lynn, and the excitement my group had for the project. We wondered what the gardens were going to be used for, and the different vegetables that
would be planted.That day, we built 12 raised-bed gardens, but the best part was when I went back to Meadow Court for our mobile farmers market in the summer, and I saw how our raised-bed gardens were utilized.
I was proud. Each of the raised-bed gardens had a variety of vegetables growing, my favorite being the cherry tomatoes. I had a conversation with a senior citizen that day about the gardens, and I remember the lady telling us how happy they were to have that space to grow food and how they wished for more raised-bed gardens because the twelve we had built wasn't enough. At that moment, I saw just how impactful Growing Together was to the community and that made me extremely proud to be working for an amazing organization such as The Food Project. As youth at The Food Project, we not only talk about making change but are given the chance to be a pivotal voice that drives change.
Finding out that I was going to help run Growing Together again this year was really exciting. Our first session ran very smoothly mainly because we were more prepared and learned from experience about what works and doesn't work. Having already gone through the program, I understand what it takes to run such a program smoothly and know how to support the less experienced members of my crew and how to ask for support from Food Project staff. When we were doing farm work, my crew talked about the different organizations we were working at, the similarities and differences, and how else we can collaborate and involve community members.
Our second session also went really smoothly. I thought it was cool witnessing the reactions of the group members when they receive key workshops such as "Food for Thought" and "Community Build." Their reaction brings me back to the first time I received those workshops as a Seed Crew member and how far I've come since then.
It also helps me reflect on how much I've improved and what I can do better to raise awareness about inequalities to members of my community. One participant in Growing Together came up to me to tell me about how her mom tried to talk her into going to McDonalds, but she resisted because of our Food for Thought workshop about how much sugar and preservatives are in their strawberry milk shake.
I am also excited to see the results of our community survey project. We are having Growing Together participants ask community members in their neighborhoods to take surveys on what they hope to see improve about access to food in their community. This is very exciting to me because we get to have actual members of the community of Lynn tell us what they want collectively, instead of assuming what is better for the community based on our individual opinions.