LA Agri-Corps: Youth HEALers for Food Justice

LA Agri-Corps prepares urban youth for leadership in food justice by developing core competencies in agro-ecology and community organizing.


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

PJ increases access to fresh organic produce by strengthening community capacity to establish and maintain sustainable urban farms/gardens.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

Central LA

East LA

South LA

Northeast Los Angeles: Lincoln Heights, Cypress Park, Highland Park.

What is your idea/project in more detail?

LA Agri-Corps is a leadership pipeline that builds community capacity to transform neighborhood food environments and regional food systems by preparing urban youth to serve as co-creators and stewards of sustainable urban farms, public orchards, and community gardens. We envision Un Jardin Para Todos, a garden for everyone in every community, from pots on windowsills to rooftop gardens, and micro-farms synergistically acting together to increase availability and accessibility of fresh organic produce in low-income underserved communities. 10 Agri-Corps interns will develop core competencies in agro-ecology while receiving extensive training in community organizing to build a base of 100 Youth HEALers (Health Education & Action Leaders).

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

1) Agri-Corps Internships: Agri-Corps interns complete Proyecto Jardin's urban farm apprentice program, an 8-month project-based learning experience presented in two phases corresponding to cool and warm crop-growing seasons. Phase 1 begins in Fall 2014, with an emphasis on cool season crops and their nutritional and healing benefits. We will use our signature GoodFood Changemaker curriculum, and adaptation of curriculum developed by UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems, supplemented by consultation with local immigrant farmers who posses deep wisdom and extensive experience in traditional sustainable agriculture. PJ's GoodFood Changemaker curriculum consists of three learning modules: (1) Agro-ecology, (2) Food Systems Literacy, and (3) Community organizing, followed by a 40 hour practicum in community organizing. Together, these learning units synergistically guide participants to attain core competencies in organic food production, understanding root causes of food system issues, and organizing effectively for policy/systems change. Upon completion of Phase 1, Agri-Corp Interns will continue to Phase 2 in Spring 2015, to apply learned farming skills while expanding knowledge about growing warm season crops and their nutritional/health benefits.

2) Community Organizing for Outreach & Base-building: In spring 2015, AgriCorps interns will begin recruiting new garden volunteers and presenting workshops, cooking demos, and garden tours at The Wellness Center. Each AgriCorps member will be responsible for building a base of 10 supporters/volunteers who understand community food justice issues in context of larger food system challenges. This cadre of food system leaders, will be recognized as Youth Health Education & Action Leaders (HEALers), and will strengthen organizational capacity to reach and retain youth participants in garden activities and enhance community efforts to transform Boyle Heights’ food environment through policy and systems change.

3) Community Organizing for Education/Awareness: Our 10 AgriCorps Interns and 100 Youth HEALers will be based at the newly designed Community Wellness Center located at the Historic LA County Hospital, splitting their time between our on-site demonstration urban farm and Proyecto Jardin's original training garden at White Memorial Medical Center. They will be trained to use our G.L.A.M. community engagement tools: Greet, Listen, Assess, Motivate, to inspire & mobilize support.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to LIVE today? In 2050?

LA Agri-Corps helps make LA the healthiest place to live today because it:

1) Strengthens community capacity to create neighborhood food environments that are culturally revenant, healthy, and linked to improving community economic development and the built environments.

2) We plan to promote sustainable agriculture by encourage cultivation of edible crops that are drought tolerant and/or native to dry, desert climates, such as teary beans, watermelon, peppers, okra, eggplant.

Whom will your project benefit?

1) Youth who need jobs, work development skills.

2) Underserved low-income communities that lack access to fresh, organic, quality produce and experience the economic, health, and social impacts of grocery store red lining.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Specify whether partenrs are confirmed.

1) City of Los Angeles Summer Youth Employment

2) Boyle Heights Technology Academy,

3) Ikar Synagogue, Green Action

4) Jewish Federation of Los Angeles

5) LAC+ USC Foundation

6) The Wellness Center at LAC + USC

7) White Memorial Medical Center

8) Amigos de Los Rios

9) UCLA School of Public Health

How will your project impact the LA2050 LIVE metrics?

Access to healthy food

Exposure to air toxins

Number of households below the self-sufficiency standard

Obesity rates

Rates of mental illnesses

Prevalence of adverse childhood experience (Dream Metric)

Percentage of LA communities that are resilient (Dream Metric)

Percentage of tree canopy cover (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Access to healthy food: AgriCorps interns work with community organizations, schools, and local residents to increase capacity to maintain productive food growing gardens year round. Interns engage with Proyecto Jardin to reactivate and expand the organization's Community Supported Agriculture program, a food distribution strategy that also operates as a social enterprise venture to support the gardens sustainability goals while increasing access to fresh produce.

Tree Canopy & Air Quality: We will add 22 new fruit trees to at The Wellness Center.

Health outcomes are improved when people engage in gardening to grow food because they increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, thereby deducting obesity and related chronic disease such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and asthma. Additionally, gardening improves well being by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.

The number of households living below the self-sufficiency standard will be reduced because youth will receive financial compensation for their work as interns. Stipends they receive contribute to the family's household income.

Communities are ultimately more resilient when economic development opportunities are linked to health and social benefit programs, such as urban agriculture.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

1) 10 AgriCorps Interns Complete the GoodFood Changemaker Curriculum

2) Proyecto Jardin's base of support is expanded to include 100 new Youth HEALers.

3) 10 Presentations are delivered at The Wellness Center by PJ AgriCorps members, selected from a menu of organic gardening, healthy food preparation, composting, water-wise gardening, and soil building.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

1) Young people in Boyle Heights and surrounding east side communities need job opportunities linked to real career prospects.

2) Food access and health disparities require place-based solutions that engage the people most deeply affected by these issues to be meaningfully engaged as leaders.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

1) We have the land and site control at two locations that will be used for training.

2) We have already trained a pool of over 30 Youth HEALers who will be our primary target population for AgriCorps internships.

3) We have developed an effective curriculum and pilot tested over 75% of the lessons.

4) We have secured 9 partners who are ready to hit the ground running.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

1) Weather and climate change: We plan to focus on growing drought tolerant foods. We installed a water harvesting system at one of our sites.

2) Additional resources to continue beyond the first year: We have identified corporate sponsors who are on board to donate and assist with identifying other resources.