Youth for Eco Action

Youth for EcoAction is an environmental leadership program that creates positive change for children, youth and their communities by instilling a sense of responsibility and caring for the earth. YEA involves youth aged 6-18 in after-school and summer programming with a focus on urban agriculture projects in their communities.

Through YEA, participants visit farms, gain experience in seed starting, transplanting and gardening, participate in food preparation and preservation workshops, and engage in numerous other educational activities. One of the major components of the YEA program is the building and maintenance of community gardens on site at the clubs. In 2009, YEA engaged 194 children in plotting, planting, maintaining and harvesting from our community gardens. They also took the lead with recycling and composting activities at our clubs.

YEA is a year-round program that is delivered four sessions throughout the year:
i.) School Year – (October to May) Afterschool YEA Clubs
ii.) YEA Spring – (May-July) Spring Clean-Ups and Garden Opening
iii.)YEA Summer – (July-August) Summer Employment
iv.) YEA Fall – (September–October) Harvest and Clean Up

Funding is being requested to support and enhance the YEA Summer Employment Programs. YEA hires 6 youth members aged 15-18. Typically, this is first-time employment experience for a majority of youth that are hired. Each YEA participant is a member of an “urban green team” that maintains the network of BGCW community garden sites. The extensive network of gardens includes nine garden sites located at or near our drop-in centres throughout Winnipeg. The sites includes school yards (Sister MacNamara School, Dufferin School, Norquay School), private land (Riedigers Grocery Store) and publicly owned land (Manitoba Housing) The team is responsible for maintaining the appearance of their community garden areas through litter removal and garden infrastructure upgrades.

The YEA program also explores opportunities for farmer’s market sales and partnerships with farms offering community supported agriculture shares. YEA will partner with the North End Food Security Network to set up a farmer’s market table at Main Street Market. YEA will purchase a share from Fort Whyte Farms to provide additional produce for market sales and distribution to family members.
An integral component to the program will be the food training offered to youth. In order to effectively maintain the sites, youth will receive gardening training throughout the summer. Members will attend weekly gardening workshops facilitated by local experts. YEA is currently working with Urban Eatin’ and Audrey Logan to develop gardening workshop. YEA will also recruit garden mentors, community volunteers with extensive gardening experience, to volunteer with the program. Garden mentors offer guidance and role modeling, working alongside members throughout the week at various garden sites, sharing their knowledge and passion for gardening.

YEA members will also gain important food skills by learning how to use the harvested produce. Staff and garden mentors will coordinate cooking sessions where youth will learn about healthy eating, food preparation, and preserving. The team will eat lunches together, alternating cooking responsibilities throughout the week.

YEA will also schedule workshops that examine mainstream and alternative food systems. The workshops offered will challenge participants to become more aware of the food they eat and the impact of their food choices. YEA will contact local agencies that offer dynamic and thought provoking sessions in the areas of food security, food justice, global trade and food sovereignty. Examples of such agencies are Food Matters Manitoba, Manitoba Council for International Cooperation, and Winnipeg Harvest.

During the past two years, we have offered participatory video training for youth members. The video work has been an excellent component to the program, providing a great programming activity for youth. The videos are a tremendous tool that has been used to evaluate and promote the program. We would like to build on this exercise and develop an online video diary that follows their journey throughout the summer, examines their food choices and determines the impact the program has on their choices.

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