The ROOT Report: Making Food Cool for Kids in California





Today’s teenagers are the next generation of consumers, entrepreneurs, community leaders, legislators, and sustainable growers. Involving them in the movement for better food is critical to building a healthier future or all of us.

In Santa Cruz County, California, FoodWhat?! uses food as a vehicle for youth empowerment by creating a fun after-school atmosphere that also engages teens in community change. Each year, FoodWhat?! connects over 1,000 high schoolers to healthy food, meaningful work, and a supportive community. More than 400 FoodWhat?! youth work on two local farms that specialize in education. And by growing their own food, these teens are learning skills that will nourish them for a lifetime, changing the way their families eat, and increasing community access to fresh produce.

Food What?! youth in Santa Cruz County, California. Image retrieved from

Recognized as the 2019 California Nonprofit of the Year, FoodWhat?! engages high schoolers not only in farm work but also in job training, leadership development, community internships and food justice workshops. All internships and trainings are paid opportunities with the chance to earn school credit. This cumulative program helps students build their knowledge and skills, prepare for success in a work environment, and mentor other FoodWhat?! youth.

Whether managing a harvest, preparing a healthy meal for family, or gaining confidence at an internship, these teens are growing individually and professionally. Over 93% of FoodWhat?! alumni feel empowered to create positive change in their lives and communities. Santa Cruz county, and all of us, have a brighter future ahead as FoodWhat?! youth continue to grow and change the world around them.

To learn more about FoodWhat?! and the incredible work they do, click here.


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