As a young kid, James Berk often ate chips for dinner. By age 12, he’d developed a minor heart condition and had difficulty breating. Today at age 19, he’s the youngest of seven worker owners of West Oakland’s Mandela Food Co-Operative and heads up their Healthy Neighborhood Store Alliance, a program that focuses on getting fresh produce into corner stores in low income neighborhoods.
The world needs more James Berks! That’s why Ashoka’s Youth Venture and The Earth Island Institute are collaborating on an exciting new program called JUST FOOD. The youth development efforts will support teams of young people in the East Bay. in their efforts to lead their own social ventures addressing the critical theme of food justice. In doing so, they’ll be able to build a powerful network of young changemakers throughout their community, beginning next year.
JUST FOOD aims to support small diverse youth teams who engage in problem solving around food issues through "investigation, imagination, and action." But they won't be left to their own devices: they'll undergo a rigorous 10-session training on strong social venture models that will end in group presentations of the teams' ideas to a community of stakeholders who will provide not just feedback but access to seed funding. Adult mentors will be on hand to help.
The organizers explain that the breadth of food justice is what attracted them to tackling it: the broad range of issues connected to our food systems, from access to healthy, affordable food to the inclusion of communities of color, make this a challenging yet engrossing puzzle to solve.
Youth (age 13-22) applications for JUST FOOD are due Friday, November 12th; adult mentor applications are due November 5th.