2017 Food Justice Youth Summit


Yuckity, Yuck. Would you eat our school lunch?

  • Do you wonder how far food travels to get to your plate?

  • How can we convert a food desert into a thriving oasis?

  • How does the food we throw away impact the environment?

  • Tired of youth voices being ignored?

These are some of the questions and issues addressed in student-led workshops at the 2017 Food Justice Youth Summit, an annual event hosted by Capital City Public Charter School to share student research, ideas, and recommendations on food justice issues as they work with other youth and food justice activists to build a citywide movement for sustainable food systems.

The University of the District of Columbia College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES) co-hosted and provided the venue for the summit on April 14, 2017.

The theme was “Feed Your Brain: Nourish Your Community” and the session topics included: Food Sourcing, Food Policy and Laws, Food Production, Food Waste and Composting, School Lunches, and Food Access.

A Day in the Life of a Food Desert

Students led approximately 20 participants through an exploration of the unequal access to fresh produce and other healthy foods in different D.C. neighborhoods. After the students engaged the audience in defining the terms “food desert” and “gentrification,” a student presented a video that showed the disparities in food access in different parts of the city. The student’s family, longtime residents of Northeast D.C., had been recently forced to move due to skyrocketing housing prices. She documented the view from her bus trip along H Street to Benning Road and across the Anacostia River to where she now lives. She pointed out the examples of gentrification, such as the new Whole Foods on H Street, and food deserts, where carry outs and corner stores offer little in the way of nutritious foods.

After students diagrammed the layout of D.C.’s organic fresh produce stores as compared to areas undergoing gentrification, participants played a game in which they took on the identity of a fictional person living in a food desert. Each participant was handed an envelope with money and a statement about their situation, such as:

  • You are a mother who must feed a family of 7. You have $10 for the week with an additional $10 of government food assistance.

  • You are a couple with no children and $50 for the week.

  • You are man who is homeless with $1 for the week.

  • You are an undocumented immigrant father who must feed a family of 7 with $10 for the week (no government assistance).

  • You are a woman with $35 for the week.

Many participants spoke of how important it is to make visible the realities of so many of our fellow Washingtonians.

Below are some photos and video clips from the afternoon.

Food Justice Youth Summit 2017

Also, see stories about the Youth Food Justice Summits in 20162015, and 2014.

Mykella Palmer