The teens of The Food Project in Lynn earlier this month hosted community members, local educators, and even Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey at a pair of events highlighting the organization’s work in the community and the central role youth play in the mission.
“With The Food Project in itself, we are working in the intersections of youth, food, and community,” says Ludia Modi, North Shore regional director for the group and an alumna of the youth program. “Our youth are the primary focus of our work – they are the ones that are the agents of change.”
Founded in 1991, The Food Project aims to strengthen local food systems and alleviate food insecurity, while also helping build valuable leadership skills and self-confidence in young people. The organization is headquartered in Lincoln, but operates farms in Beverly, Boston, Lincoln, Lynn, and Wenham. Every year it hires young people for paid positions working on the farm, staffing farmers’ markets, building raised garden beds, distributing produce through a community-supported agriculture program, and creating community workshops.
On August 8, Healey and Lynn mayor Jared Nicholson visited The Food Project farm at the Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, where they were guided around the operation by two members of the organization’s Root Crew, a group of teen workers who have previous experience with The Food Project.
“We were able to give her a tour of our community garden land, and she sat down and talked to the youth,” Modi says. “They were able to ask questions about food insecurity and food policy – it was a really beautiful, robust conversation we held.”
Two days later, the organization partnered with acclaimed Lynn restaurant Blue Ox to host a farm-to-table lunch featuring produce grown by The Food Project. Guests including local residents, teachers, counselors, and other stakeholders enjoyed chicken wings; salad featuring herbs, zucchini, and onions from the Lynn farm; and a dip made of Food Project tomatoes, olive oil, and herbs, and onions served with housemade pita bread.
During the event, youth leaders facilitated ice-breaker activities, explained the mission of The Food Project, shared speeches about topics like sustainable agriculture, and answering community questions about the work. Having young people lead the event is essential to the mission, allowing them to connect with the community and flex the skills they have been developing during their time with the organization, Modi says.
And the Lynn event, she says, was a success.
“There was a lot of energy, there were folks laughing, and there was a lot of curiosity as well,” Modi says. “And I fell like curiosity leads to understanding.”
For more information about what The Food Project does and how to support the organization, visit thefoodproject.org.