9/11 National Day of Service – members of FoodCorps CT and the CT Food Justice VISTA Project, helping a local farmer get her fields ready at Cloverleigh Farm in Mansfield. Both projects are coordinated by UConn Extension and proud partners with AmeriCorps.
The Connecticut Food Justice Youth Corps (CTFJYC) is a team of five AmeriCorps VISTA’s increasing the collaboration and coherence of non-profits working the field of Food Justice. The strength of this collaboration begins and ends with an understanding of what each of these separate organizations seek to create: a community movement, driven by youth, to improve the access and affordability of healthy food regardless of race, class, gender, ethnicity, or citizenship. These organizations have the common desire to give communities a voice that speaks to their own food needs and to ensure that this voice is loud enough to be heard.
Generally targeting middle and high school age students, individual organizations under the FJYC umbrella are developing a common curricula for use or adaptation at any school, a curricula that seeks to educate and empower. The youth that emerge as leaders, role models and activists are then given the tools to craft a movement of their own design, based on an assessment of community needs through their own eyes. It is the VISTA’s position to support the youth at each juncture, with the aid of community and college volunteers. Along the way youth groups will meet with partner organizations at food policy meetings, summits, and convening’s; the capstone being a youth driven convening for all of the partner organizations to attend, as well as speakers and advocates in the field of food justice. Youth groups will present their projects, the successes and the failures, and learn from one another just how powerful a group of young minds can be in changing the way their community looks at food.
Currently the FJYC is a collaboration of five main organization, backed by the support of FoodCorps, the UConn Extension office, and the Institute for Community Research. Our sites are in locations all across Connecticut, with the connection being a low income, high-risk community in need of food system change. VISTA’s serve with GROW Windham (Windham County), FRESH New London, NEAT (North End, Middletown), Hartford Food Systems and CitySeed (New Haven). Each site has unique challenges dependent upon its location; therefore the common curricula is developed with adaptation in mind. With the continued support of UConn Extension and AmeriCorps, our hope is to expand the network of VISTA’s working with non-profit in the field of food justice from five to twelve in the summer of 2014. Our goal, to make a fluid social movement driven by collective impact is slowly but surely gaining momentum; each day is more exciting than the last.