Most young people consider diabetes a “grandfather’s disease,” inherited at birth. They don’t always know that there are two very different forms of the disease, and that type 2 diabetes is preventable. This lack of awareness has staggering implications—between 2000 and 2008, rates of diabetes and prediabetes among Americans ages 12 to 19 shot from 9 percent to 23 percent.

That’s where the The Bigger Picture comes in. Youth Speaks, a San Francisco based arts nonprofit that empowers teenagers through poetry, teamed up with the University of San Francisco’s Center for Vulnerable Populations in 2010 to launch a project that encourages young people to “raise their voice and change the conversation around type 2 diabetes.” Read more

Young food movement activists may be idealistic but we are not flower children. We are process and results-oriented; we may criticize, but also we learn from successful business models. We’re comfortable with money, know how to network and are handy with a spreadsheet.

Three years ago, I was organizing protests at UC Berkeley. Now I’m at my laptop, speaking with Camilla Bustamante, a Northern New Mexico College Dean.  She’s enthusiastically telling me about a student-run, local foods cafe that has just opened at her campus. Read more

Smack in the middle of a half-dozen shipping containers and striding up a mound of gravel, Johanna Gilligan, 31, can’t contain her excitement. “This looks so awesome!” She nods her head at an alcove between two containers, painted the pale color of new celery, with dry sinks attached. “That’s going to be for processing.”

Gilligan, co-director of New Orleans’ Grow Dat Youth Farm, traipses up the mound, which terminates at a deck of sorts and more containers, crowded with architectural students from Tulane University and local urban farm experts. Beyond the deck sits a bayou, lined with trees weeping Spanish moss into the water; the I-610 freeway buzzes along in the background. “I can’t believe how much is done! My office is going to be in a treehouse!”

She has reason to be excited. At four acres, the buildings’ site is just a sliver of City Park, 1,300 acres of green space on New Orleans’ north side. But come February, the buildings will be done, the beds will be ready for planting, and the second class of Grow Dat farmers will commence their work. The goal: one acre planted, 10,000 pounds of food grown, 20 jobs for student workers. Read more

I wonder what was on the minds of the first 13 young Freedom Riders–six white and seven black–the day before they got on a Greyhound bus in D.C., headed to the South 50 years ago in spring 1961.  Were they nervous, for themselves and their future, that the law to desegregate interstate commerce wouldn’t uphold in a still-segregated South?  Did they feel any pride for their anticipated acts of non-violence, soon capturing the attention of the world and cementing themselves in the history of racial equality?

I’ll soon find out.  It’s the day before I get on a bus in Birmingham, Alabama with 12 other young folk from across the country of all different backgrounds to seek another form of Civil Rights.  The Freedom Riders sought racial justice.  We are seeking real food justice. We’re changing the food system in our own communities and meeting others who are doing the same, whether it’s increasing access to affordable healthy food for low-income communities, getting better conditions for food chain workers, or reclaiming traditional food cultures. Read more

Whatever you call him, Steve Ritz is an extraordinary example of how one person can make a difference.

He has two missions: The first is to get his Discovery High School students to grow and eat vegetables. The second is to ignite the Green Bronx Machine and get all of the borough residents to grow and eat healthy food. (Watch out for the soon-to-come Web site and meanwhile follow Green Bronx Machine on Facebook and Twitter.)

Ritz is fueled by the irony that although the Bronx is the distribution point for produce to all five boroughs, its residents have very little access to high quality, fresh vegetables.

“If my kids can’t buy good produce at the local supermarket, we’ll get them to grow it,” Ritz decides. And grow they do! Hundreds of pounds of it a year. Where? On the classroom walls. Read more

Like many social movements, the so-called “good food movement” relies heavily on young people for their vision, energy, and idealism. And yet, when Naomi Starkman, one of the organizers behind the Kitchen Table Talks series, invited six young leaders to speak at a panel called Next Gen Food Activists, she pinpointed just what sets them apart.

“This group is interested in rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty,” said Starkman from a podium at the UC Berkeley Journalism School, which co-hosted the panel. “They’re also one of the most technologically connected generations, using social tools and the internet to organize.”

Indeed, as the discussion illuminated, the young men and women present have succeeded in ways that have seamlessly blended the online and offline worlds. They also represented multiple lenses on the edible world: from food justice to green business, to the “delicious revolution.” Read more

Recently a Detroit public high school that focuses on farming and second chances for young mothers was added to a list of schools that would be closed this summer. Catherine Ferguson Academy is on that list thanks to a new law that allows Michigan governor Rick Snyder to dismiss locally elected officials and put in place new ones. (I’ll let Rachel Maddow give the details in the video, below).

You might have heard that Detroit lost 25 percent of its population in the last decade. What has resulted is a lot of abandoned land and a lot of blight. And yet, Detroit is also home to an urban agriculture Renaissance, with projects like the Greening of Detroit and D-Town Farm, among others. Catherine Ferguson Academy is just one such place that offers opportunities in growing food to those who need it most. Read more