Harvest Moon Block Party: Community Building In A Pandemic
This summer 11 of our high school students and a cohort of 6 youth leaders culminated an intensive summer of food justice education and farming internship by throwing a block party for East Camden residents. Students graduating from the program were trained in political education, leadership skills such as facilitation and public speaking, community engagement and research skills through an oral history project, as well as resilience skills such as urban farming and cooking.
Students attended weekday hybrid in person and online workshop sessions Tues – Friday, including weekly farm days where they learned how to garden, do outreach and deliver neighborhood CSA vegetable bags (our primary business venture this past spring and summer).
A student expressed, “I saw how people expressed love through their labor which was not easy sometimes, I saw how values kept blossoming as well as how people got together to contribute their time for better…helping me to realize there are so many things out there for me to learn and embrace.” Another student shared, “I learned a lot about leadership, creativity, self-confidence, and communication skills which are really important for every young people.”
In total 6 student leads during the summer farm and youth program led neighborhood organizing to get our CSA vegetable bags out to our community members, and planned a large block party with over 150 attendees for us to connect with neighbors and other Camden City residents about our services and programs. The event was a huge success – our interns cooked over 100 solidarity meals for our community members, we worked with well over 30 other high school volunteers, students conducted a political skit showcasing issues in Camden that they had been learning about throughout the internship, created a mural showcasing the interviews they had done with various neighbors and Camden residents about mutual aid and community resilience in the face of COVID-19. We had farm vendors selling vegetables, Veggie Mijas (a national food justice organization) table to share more information about their services, and Camden Community Partnership was vending out free water filters for neighbors to support folks with decreasing lead contamination. In order to keep everyone safe we conducted quality COVID-19 protection measures such as contact tracing, requiring and offering PPE to all participants, and had our health team table to support people with accessing information on vaccines and testing sites.
We were able to retain/recruit 2 youth graduates to become college-aged organizers for our programs and 3 youth leads to support with the farm program and business. At least half of the graduates from Resilient Roots are continuing on with our fall cohort and will be supporting us with farm business ventures, such as with the ongoing hot sauce project.
About the Grantee
VietLead is a grassroots organization that strives to improve health, increase sovereignty, and develop Vietnamese leadership in solidarity through intergenerational farming; youth leadership; health navigation; policy advocacy; and civic engagement. Our Food Sovereignty and community garden program was built from seeing how food is an important part of how refugees practice self-determination.