The Urban Nutrition Initiative, Philadelphia PA

John goes on to say:

“I am here to fix the ignorance in some people and be a positive leader for those who want to make a change.”

Read below for more youth voices from the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative (UNI)…

UNI is a program of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania that engages, educates and empowers youth, university students, and community members to promote healthy lifestyles and build a just and sustainable food system. UNI supports educational programs in schools and communities to increase food and nutrition knowledge, to improve access to healthy foods and to promote active lifestyles.  UNI engages young people, including university and public school students, as community problem solvers through activities that are linked to core curricular subject areas, simultaneously improving health and learning. 

UNI works with 20 Philadelphia public schools to address the complex problem of poor nutrition, obesity and diet-related disease through programs that involve 12,000 students in hands-on experiences growing, cooking, tasting and selling healthy foods as well as projects to increase physical activity. 

It also operates job-training and youth leadership programs for high school students.  The UNI high school internship is a year-round job-training and skills development program for Philadelphia public school students to improve academic skills and increase graduation rates and college attendance.  The program builds youth leadership skills through peer food education, urban agriculture and entrepreneurship, all of which enrich local neighborhoods and improve community health. 

Interns advance youth-led solutions to improving community food systems through work with policy makers and participation in food justice networks and conferences.
“My experiences with UNI have made me aware of the food justice movement and the role I can play to change my own health habits, as well as the fact that I can make positive change in my school, in my local community and in the city of Philadelphia.  It’s even bigger than that.  When you grow your own nutritious, organic food and cook with it or sell it to a family, you are opening doors to changing more than just how people eat.  That’s why this thing is a movement.  Young people all over are stepping up and making change in their communities.

“For the last few years, I’ve been involved in something called Rooted in Community (RIC) – it helps young people working in food justice programs become leaders. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to new places and learn from other youth. The RIC conferences I attended – and even helped plan – were good, meaningful experiences that made me grow as a person. I attended RIC conferences in Portland, Maine, and Durham, North Carolina.

“This year RIC came to Philly – my hometown. The day of action we planned for RIC 2011 was a day where youth and the people of Philadelphia learned about the Youth Food Bill of Rights that “we, the youth” created. We made the document because we as the youth felt that we had a right to good, affordable, healthy, easy, accessible, and local food, and we also have the right to have our voice to be heard by the people. So in a fitting way we presented the Youth Food Bill of Rights on the lawn of the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, where the original Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights was signed.”

– Kenny Owens, Youth Urban Mobile Market Entrepreneur; RIC Planning Committee

“I learned so many different things – things you wouldn’t even learn in school.  I learned skills like cooking and gardening.  But even more importantly, I learned to organize people. I learned to teach.  And I learned that I can create positive change. 

“Urban Nutrition Initiative was what inspired me. I met a lot of great people and that made me want to give my best.  I had the opportunity to travel to conferences and learn that people all over the country are working to change their communities by working with healthy food.

“It’s hard work. You’re trying to make change but not everyone is on the same page.  You just have to work harder.  You might have five gardens, but there is still more unhealthy food on every corner.  But it’s starting to change.  For me, personally, I am interested in becoming a chef. Since I’ve had the chance to really learn where food comes from, when I run a restaurant, it will stand for food justice – because of my experiences with UNI.”

– Laquanda Quanda, Alumna of UNI High School Internship Program, Current Youth Crew Supervisor at the School of the Future

The Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative
Netter Center for Community Partnerships   
University of Pennsylvania
3451 Walnut Street, Suite P-117A Philadelphia, PA 19104