By Audrey Stanton, Youth Planning Committee Member

The panel
The panel featured Scarlet Kaplan from Hellgate High School in Missoula, MT, Ayisah Yusef from the Rural Coalition in Washington, D.C., and Phil Nguygen from The Food Project in Boston, MA.

The Growing Leaders Youth Summit brought together youth, such as myself, and mentors from all across Montana to share and discuss food programs already in place and propose future ideas. The Summit was created by Farm to Cafeteria Network, a project of the National Center for Appropriate Technology, and spanned three days in Missoula, Montana. Throughout the Summit, we were able to discuss food justice, including the real cost of cheap food and how youth really can create change. Speakers from Boston, Washington D.C., Berkeley, and Watsonville, CA flew in to add their experience and thoughts to the discussions.

The first evening of the Summit, after we ate a delicious (and local!) dinner and got to know one another, an amendment from the Youth Food Bill of Rights was given to each table of students and adults. Their goal: to create a skit with random props (traffic cone, Darth Vader mask, etc.) to explain the amendment. The results were informative, not to mention hilarious!

The next day, we attended workshops led by youth and mentors alike that involved using art to build movements. Youth created calls for action through chants, poetry flags, music, and much more. After a visit from Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, workshop sessions about action, and tours of local food initiatives around Missoula, it was time for dinner at the PEAS Farm. We discussed reconnecting with food while gobbling down Biga Pizza that was made as we talked.

Jesse Linton of Garden City Harvest leads a workshop at the PEAS Farm

The following morning, the workshop sessions dealt with enhancing knowledge and participating in the food revolution. We conversed about farming for a living and how oppression, privilege, and food are connected. We then reflected, shared what we learned over the Summit’s course, and proposed where we would take this gained knowledge. It was time to take our new ideas home to spread through our communities, so everyone traded emails and hugged goodbye.

The Youth Summit pizza party at PEAS Farm

The Growing Leaders Youth Summit connected people working to create change through food from all across the country. The Summit empowered the youth by providing a place to share ideas and network with others. This was an incredible experience, and I can’t wait to see what it inspires.