Youth Elevate Seeds!

YES! Youth Elevate Seeds

Growing the Power of a Youth-led Movement for Sustainable Agriculture in New Mexico

1) Defining the Need

New Mexico consistently ranks as one of the hungriest states in the USA, with food insecurity and hunger prevalence rates significantly higher than the national average. From 2003 to 2005, 16.8% of New Mexico households were food insecure, highest in the nation. Food insecurity can be defined as "a condition in which people lack basic food intake to provide them with the energy and nutrients for fully productive lives." (Hunger Task Force)

The effects of food insecurity have far-reaching negative impacts on the children of New Mexico. Children suffering from hunger and malnutrition are more likely to experience learning disabilities, mental illness, and poor health. They are sick more often, have higher rates of iron deficiency anemia, and are hospitalized more frequently. As a result, they miss more days of school and are less prepared to learn when able to attend. Further exacerbating this impairment of young bodies and minds are the emotional and behavioral impacts that accompany food insecurity. At-risk children are more likely to have poorer mental health, be withdrawn or socially disruptive, and suffer greater rates of behavioral disorders. Ultimately, they are extremely vulnerable to dropping out of school, threatening to cement their status as chronically food insecure and pass on the problem to future generations too.

With food prices skyrocketing and a complicated mess of global chaos – peak oil, climate change, the biofuels boom, corporate control over seeds and advancement of dangerous 'genetically engineered crops – destabilizing the industrialized system of food supply, we can assume that the crisis of hunger and food insecurity will only get worse. Unless we transform crisis into opportunity…

2) Facing the Challenge, Building a Movement, Seeding the Future

The time is ripe for youth to rise up to demand and achieve the internationally recognized HUMAN RIGHT of access to adequate food and nutrition for all of New Mexico's children and adults. By growing a youth-led movement for sustainable agriculture in New Mexico, we can better mobilize to:

- Initiate sustainable agriculture programs at every school, with hands-on gardening, farming, cooking and food preservation projects that teach food sovereignty skills and enhance local food security, while creating & using grade-appropriate curriculum materials based on state educational standards.

- Establish a greenhouse, garden and/or farm at every school. By locating greenhouses at schools, kids will have access to fruit and vegetable starts that they can plant out at home or in a community garden. Then comes the delicious summer harvest of watermelons … yum!

- Inspire, educate and empower our peers and fellow youth to participate in sustainable agriculture. Kids are most apt to listen to & identify with young farmers who speak their language and convey real passion for good food. From hip-hop spoken words & YouTube documentaries to classroom presentations, young farmers can capture the imaginations of youth in ways that older farmers never will!

- Increase production of local food entering schools. For example, New Mexico now does not even produce enough carrots to satisfy the demand of Albuquerque Public Schools. We must encourage more local growers to fulfill the needs of the huge emerging "Farm to School" market!

- Communicate a strong youth voice to community leaders and policymakers about the importance of preserving agricultural traditions, enhancing local food security, and ensuring economic opportunities for the next generation of farmers. Do we want GMO chiles, dry acequias and malnourished kids in New Mexico? Of course not! So why are we getting policies that cause them?

What else can growing an organized youth-led movement for sustainable agriculture in New Mexico achieve? The possibilities are as limitless as our collective dreams and wisdom…

What's next? Let's continue the conversation!

Contact: Ethan Genauer – moc.liamg|4irganahte#moc.liamg|4irganahte

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