Sustainable Food Toolkit Targets Next Generation of Community Food Advocates
October 16, 2014 | Jenny Smiechowski
Since children are the future, it is important to teach them about issues that matter, and sustainable food is at the top of that list. The sustainable food movement has gained a lot of momentum in recent years, but despite its growth there are still more than six million children in the U.S. living in communities that lack access to healthy, sustainable food. Often, these children (and other children across the country) know very little about where food comes from, which foods are healthy, and which foods are good for the environment.
Fortunately, the nonprofit Earth Day New York is looking toward the future of sustainable food with its latest project— a sustainable food toolkit that will help train the next generation of community food advocates.
“Our aim is to increase sustainability awareness and provide real world opportunities for people to get involved with sustainability initiatives,” says John Oppermann, the managing director of Earth Day New York. “This project aligns perfectly with that aim as it empowers young people to become the sustainable food experts and advocates in their own communities.”
Earth Day New York’s sustainable food toolkit, which is still in development, will allow students and teachers to map sustainable food resources in their communities, and will teach them how to stimulate those resources when they are lacking. The toolkit will consist of three main components: a series of lessons on sustainable, local, and organic food; a guide to locating and mapping existing sustainable food resources in the community; and advice on how to foster sustainable food resources in communities when they are missing.
The toolkit is primarily designed for high-school age students, but can be adapted to meet the needs of younger or older students. It can also be adapted to meet the needs of communities in any region or socioeconomic level, says Oppermann.
“The guide contains concrete advice for mapping and taking action, but its guidance is not limited to a specific location. It’s open ended in that it will provide advice that anyone can use in any community, whether it’s rural or urban or disadvantaged or wealthy.”
Earth Day New York has a goal of implementing a pilot version of the toolkit in partner schools by spring 2015, but in order to achieve this goal the organization first has to reach its fundraising target. In fact finding the necessary funds has been the primary challenge in implementing the toolkit thus far.
“As a small non-profit the main challenges are always funding. The more financial support we receive, the more widely we can spread the toolkit and the more support we can provide to our participating schools,” says Oppermann.
In order to raise funds for the project, Earth Day New York is running a crowdfunding campaign which runs from the beginning of September to the beginning of November. People who donate to the campaign receive various “perks” depending on the size of their contribution. These perks range from an electronic version of the toolkit for a $7 donation to the ability to place five container gardens and food toolkits in classrooms of their choice for a $5,000 donation.
Currently, they have raised just under $9,500 and have until November 3 to raise the remainder of their $25,000 goal. Oppermann says Earth Day New York is eager to partner with as many people and organizations as possible in order to reach their goal and get the project off the ground.
“There are opportunities for a huge range of individuals and organizations to get involved and support the project. From teachers to parents and small nonprofits to large corporations, we routinely work with a diverse set of people and groups, so we’d love to hear from anyone interested in working with us,” says Oppermann.
By building a coalition of support, Earth Day New York hopes to bring sustainable food to schools in a big way. Ultimately, they plan to get their toolkit into the hands of students across the country, and the world, so they can create a system that comprehensively tracks and facilitates the growth of sustainable food.
“We have big ambitions for the expansion of the program. We will pilot the program in schools in New York, California, and a few other areas, but for later expansions of the project we’d like to tackle the challenge of getting every school in a given metropolitan area to map their neighborhoods so that we can then stitch together the maps to create one giant map that the public can access online.”