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Gala 2013: Talking about Youth

At our 2nd Annual Gala - Celebrate the Harvest on September 10, 2013, three interns presented a dynamic speaking series highlighting their personal encounters with youth, food, and community, the three intersection points of The Food Project's triangular mission. Over the course of the coming week, we will be posting transcripts of their speeches, along with a live video recording that might include some deviations from the planned script. 



Cassi Hayes

Bedford, MA

The Food Project Gala – “Youth” Talk

Here at The Food Project, we think of ourselves as the intersection between youth, food and community- what our executive director calls the "triangle of hope." I’m here tonight to talk a little more about the first point on the triangle: youth. The Food Project takes youth very seriously, and a lot of emphasis is placed on youth development- public speaking, job skills, leadership, and more. My personal change at The Food Project has been the most significant in terms of public speaking.  

Throughout my three seasons at The Food Project, I have been constantly learning new information and skills.  Through presentations and public speaking opportunities, I learned how to present in front of a diverse range groups and organizations, from an EPA group to a summer program for preschool children.  I gained significant knowledge about social justice, equity, privilege and oppression, and different food systems.  Food Project workshops are incredibly rewarding for me because, whether I am learning from others or facilitating, I can see the impact of powerful, youth-led leadership.

One of the workshops that I have the most experience with is Food For Thought, a session of three mini-workshops that educate on the food system, worker conditions in the global food system, and what's in our food. When I hold a tomato in my hands that I harvested earlier that day and explain to a group of 14 year olds how the tomatoes they buy in the supermarket are part of a global food system, and probably come from a region in Florida that supplies most of the tomatoes for this country, I see how I am helping to pass on the message of The Food Project.  I watch their faces as they hear about an old tomato, the average day and living conditions of the migrant workers, and hope that they think about more than how it will taste in a salad the next time they see a tomato on a shelf at corner store or supermarket.  

I used to be nervous about giving workshops, and would stress out the whole way through making sure that I was maintaining eye contact and not saying "um" too often.  The difference for me came when I stopped thinking about those details and started thinking about what the workshop meant to me, and how amazed I had been to learn all of this during my sophomore year when I first saw Food For Thought in action.  The information was easy to talk about because I was living it as well as learning it, and this applies to everything that I've learned at The Food Project - from specific workshops to larger issues of social justice and food issues.

The Food Project gives me an opportunity to step up, and I have learned that youth can create change and be just as impactful as adults.  As I have spent more time at The Food Project, I have been given more responsibilities.  Especially in the summer, youth make up a huge part of the workforce at TFP and we are treated as experienced members of the organization. It has given me many of the tools I need to be a leader both within The Food Project and also throughout the rest of my life.

The combination of skills (both public speaking and farming) and information and support that The Food Project provides, means that I feel capable of being a part of the food justice movement and educating others about anything from the global-industrial food system to how to build a raised bed garden. By encouraging my growth and the growth of hundreds of other youth, The Food Project is playing an important role in the development of a generation of food-conscious young people equipped with the skills to make a difference in the future of food. Because of my experience in The Food Project, I am more educated and aware about the issues that are becoming more prevalent in our society.  I am a part of the food movement, and I feel empowered and capable of making real change.  


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