Teens Gather for Good (and a Good Time) at Awbury

Jackie Schrauger, Food Moxie Program Director

On Aug. 3, Food Moxie hosted its first Gather for Good, a conference planned by and for teens focusing on environmental and food justice and urban agriculture. More than 60 young people attended from youth and urban agricultural organizations all around Philadelphia. 

The conference took place at the Food Moxie, Weavers Way and Teen Leadership Corps farms at Awbury Arboretum in Germantown. When we say it was organized by and for teens, we mean it: Members of our after-school club at Saul High School helped plan the conference, and our summer interns through the Philadelphia Youth Network WorkReady program executed the details of their vision. 

With teens taking the lead, it’s no surprise the day was jam-packed. After registration, everyone came together for a warm welcome from Scott Sheely, special assistant for workforce development at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, who spoke about his own career and possible career paths in agriculture for young people today. 

The teens then divided into groups and headed off to rotate through a series of workshops on topics such as soil safety and vacant land usage, pickling, access to clean water and the importance of watersheds, and container gardening. They went home with folders packed with resources about food access, community gardens, teen health resources, the Attic’s LGBTQ youth center and more, in addition to mini container gardens and jars of pickles they made themselves. Lunchtime activities included making bottle bricks, riding Greener Partners’ blender bike to whip up smoothies and, of course, selfies. 

Everyone came back together for guest speakers in the afternoon. Highlights included Greg Wright from the Food Trust’s Get HYPE Initiative and Kirtrina Baxter from Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia. 

Greg spoke about the power of youth movements and student voices, giving examples of times when adult voices weren’t as effective as students’. He even highlighted the efforts of one of our conference participants, who helped get hydration stations installed in all Philadelphia public schools — sorely needed since many of the water fountains are in disrepair. 

Kirtrina focused on food and land justice in relation to community power, encouraging teens to speak up this fall at City Council urban agriculture hearings. She introduced the term “food apartheid,” pointing out that “food desert” implies that the lack of resources in low-income neighborhoods is somehow natural, while “food apartheid” conveys that these circumstances are created through disinvestment. 

The speakers were extremely powerful, and we are so grateful that they shared their expertise and inspiring words with our teens! 

While the after-school club students from Saul and PYN interns did an incredible job, Food Moxie still couldn’t put on Gather for Good alone! Also working on planning and execution were Awbury Arboretum’s TLC teens, who also cooked the delicious lunch and made incredible zucchini brownies as a snack. Weavers Way was a fantastic partner, loaning us chairs and a truck to make the logistics of the day smoother. Generous funding came from the Food Trust’s Youth Leadership Council. 

All told, Gather for Good was a huge success. We learned a lot — from speakers and workshops, and about how to run a conference — and we can’t wait for next year! In the meantime, be sure to check our Facebook page and Instagram feed (@foodmoxie) for more pictures!