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Adam Seidel

Adam Seidel almost didn't make it. Initially, he was not accepted into the Summer Youth Program (SYP) in 1996, which he had applied for at the encouragement of his high school wrestling coach (a TFP staff member). But two days before the summer program started, Adam received a call from then-Director Pat Gray, saying that a spot had opened up. He recalls Pat saying "I hear you'd be great, so if you're still around, come out for the first day.

So began Adam's Food Project journey, a path that would lead to lasting personal relationships and learning that influenced major life decisions. After his first summer as a crew worker, Adam was a member of the first D.I.R.T. (Dynamic, Intelligent, Responsible Teenagers) Crew that fall, served as an assistant crew leader the following summer, and again took part in D.I.R.T. the next academic year. He took the summer of 1998 off from TFP, but returned again to take part in the Urban Education Internship program. Adam also served as one of The Food Project's first youth board members.

With a laugh, Adam concedes that he didn't immediately recognize the enormous amounts of thought and care that went into running SYP. ("In my 14-year-old mind, I'd thought TFP was a commercial farming enterprise and that we were hired hands!") As the summer ended and he began his stint with D.I.R.T., he realized that a "great deal of intentionality" went into the activities done both in and out of the fields. His service as a board member also exposed him to issues and concerns relating to the management of a nonprofit organization.

"I didn't necessarily understand all the details about budgets and financial statements," he says, "but even back then, I grasped the importance of issues of scale and growth." At that time, there was considerable discussion about how to replicate the Food Project model. "Should we have TFPs all across the country, should we have things that look like TFP but aren't formally The Food Project? How do we think about growth in a smart way, where we don't lose what's effective?"

Talking about the impact The Food Project made on him, Adam readily draws direct links. His choice of college was influenced by his friendship with Meg Coward, a former TFP staff member and board chair. His career path, which has combined service learning, youth development, and community organizing, continues to be shaped by what he experienced at The Food Project.

As managing director of Common Cents, a New York-based nonprofit that employs service learning in its work with youth, he regularly calls upon tools and ideas he learned about at TFP. "Every time I draw the "T", with the plus sign on one side, and the triangle on the other, I think about The Food Project and how intentional they are about giving constructive feedback," he says, referring to TFP's practice and method of evaluating programs by listing positive outcomes and those we hope to change (deltas) or improve on.

"We teach young people about giving back and helping others and doing it in a way where you're not reinforcing inequality but working to change that," he says.

The Food Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

Tax ID: 04-3262532


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