From the Victory Gardens of World War II to today’s community gardens, 4-H children and youth have been feeding the future for generations. But it’s not just about growing food. As Marcia Eames Sheavly (Sr. Extension Associate, Dept. of Horticulture) explains, “Gardening offers an opportunity for all of us to experience nature, up close and personal, and in doing so, it promotes environmental awareness. It fosters important life skills, is calming, provides healthy food, and gives us a shot of Vitamin D in the process. At the school and community level, it promotes cooperation, beautification, and gives us a chance to come together around something healthy, in essence, providing us with an amazingly good vibe among people.” Research supports the concept that youth involved in gardening develop an increased awareness of nutrition and the environment which leads to higher learning achievements and improved life skills.
Feed the Future is a major theme for the NYS 4-H Youth Development Program during 2011 and it seems very appropriate since this is CCE’s Centennial Year. Traditionally, many 4-H’ers have grown vegetables and fruits to exhibit at fairs as well as to feed their families. This growing experience links naturally to a diversity of other projects, from nutrition to animal care, and all involve science education. Below are some examples that expand on the gardening concept.
Youth Grow! Becoming a Leader in the Local Food Movement
This is one program that is offered during the 4-H Career Explorations conference held in late June on Cornell’s campus each year. Youth involved with this program grow passionate about working for environmental sustainability and healthy communities. They expand their knowledge of the local food movement, which is gaining momentum and being inspired by the White House garden. During Youth Grow! teens are provided with the training, leadership skills, and tools needed to get involved in the local food systems movement. They learn how to create meaningful and effective change in their communities and leave with an action plan and a network of mentors for guidance.
A 2010 participant reflected, “This program has motivated me to go back to my community and give back and share my knowledge of the food system.”
Global Food Security and Tomorrow’s Leaders
One of the major priorities of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture focuses on supporting new science to boost agriculture production so that all people will have access to enough food, at all times, for an active, healthy life. In 2010, NYS 4-H Youth Development became involved in this priority in a very unique way.
Lazarus Lynch, a NYC 4-H’er and junior at the Food and Finance High School was motivated while attending the 4-H Career Explorations conference to become one of 25 delegates to the New York Youth Institute held at Cornell and coordinated by Francine Jasper (Assistant Director, CU International Programs). In 2009, the New York Youth Institute was created by World Food Prize laureate, Colin McClung (M.S.’49, Ph.D.’50) in partnership with the CALS International Programs Office to inspire youth to become involved in solving global food insecurity issues.
Each delegate was required to research and write an essay on the theme ‘solutions for the world’s smallholders’; Lazarus was one of four NY students selected to attend the World Food Prize’s Global Youth Institute. While attending this event, Lazarus, along with 118 other high school students, had the opportunity to interact with Nobel and World Food Prize Laureates and other global food experts and learn about food insecurity. Read more about Lazarus’ experience. Lazarus will be the keynote speaker at the 2011 4-H Career Explorations conference which will be held June 28-30th on the Cornell University campus.
Feed the Future: CCE’s Centennial
To celebrate CCE’s Centennial, 4-H Youth Development, along with its numerous other research-based projects, is coordinating a statewide growing project that will provide an opportunity for gardeners of all ages to work together to grow and donate produce to people in their home communities. More information will be available soon through the NYS 4-H and Garden-Based Learning websites.
Want to get involved? …Start a community garden, grow a row for the hungry, feed your family and join with others to feed and inspire our future leaders.