"From GED prep work to 3 strawberry plants to 5 rows of leafy greens to feeding 3,000 people."
We are an urban farm and food justice academy in the heart of the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans. Our mission is to create a resource-rich safe space for youth empowerment and sustainable community development. We use the intersections of food justice and youth empowerment to combat systems of unfreedom, employing neighborhood youth and practicing intensive-urban-agriculture on our 1.5-acre farm.
Our story began in 2008 with a displaced NYC public school teacher, an abandoned grocery store, Lower 9th Ward youth, and a vision. What was once an after school nutrition and entrepreneurship program has grown with the help of tens of thousands of service learners, organizers, teachers, and community leaders, from 48 states and 15 countries into a food-based economic and educational institution.
As educators and social entrepreneurs, we are guided by the principles of Backwards Design, the concept, that, to be successful in designing a unit or class, planning a project, or implementing large scale social and cultural change , the educator/entrepreneur must begin with the end point - the "enduring understanding" - in mind. To reach that enduring understanding, we build what we call Scaffolding - strategy, steps, and benchmarks guided by an Essential Question.
Our work is guided by the Essential Question, "to what extent are we empowering at-risk youth to take leadership in making New Orleans, Louisiana the City that Ended Hunger?"
1. Ending hunger in New Orleans is both achievable and practical
2. The cross-sector, cross-disciplinary work required to end hunger can create significant learning and employing opportunities, particularly young people) living in resource-deprived situations.
Ending hunger has been done before. In “The City that Ended Hunger,” Frances Moore Lappé describes the practical innovations the city of Belo Horizonte successfully implemented to assure everyone the right to food. These innovations include fixing the price of fresh food items, linking low-resource farmers directly to low-income consumers, establishing “People’s Restaurants,” and introducing a participatory budgeting process.
What is most interesting about Belo Horizonte’s innovations is that they transformed relationships, creating a “new social mentality” that everyone benefits when everyone can access Good Food. Farmers’ incomes increased, infant mortality rates dropped, the city combated it’s image as incompetent, and everyone’s bellies stayed full of healthy, local food. These innovations – ending hunger through mechanisms for individuals to participate in their democracy – take up less than 2% of the city’s annual budget.