by José Morin and Ian Crawford • Photography by Max Elliott
On December 5 this year, young leaders from Urban Roots will host Austin’s first-ever “Youth Food Jam” for Central Texas. Sponsored by Kerbey Lane Café and held at Garza High School, the event is sure to be an energetic community gathering and an inspirational day. The core of activity focuses on workshops led by youth and adults from a variety of food and leadership development organizations (including Urban Roots), and to round out the day, there’ll be a keynote address from internationally renowned author and University of Texas professor Raj Patel, and a performance by local hip-hop group Mindz of a Different Kind, which is co-led by Urban Roots graduate Breez Smith. Of course, there will also be plenty of delicious local foods to enjoy throughout the day.
The inspiration for the event came from the Rooted In Community (RIC) gathering held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2014. Urban Roots members José Morin and Robbie Araiza, as well as two Urban Roots staff members, were invited to participate with more than 120 other young attendees from several dozen youth-farm programs across the country. Workshop topics ranged from the benefits of organic produce, to public speaking, to the culture of the land. “The experience is something I’ll never forget,” says Morin. “And the opportunity to encounter others passionately engaged in the same work that inspires me solidified my dreams to make a difference. I realized that our differences in location meant little, as we all had an indistinguishable passion for food justice.” The participants returned to Austin excited to replicate the experience.
To prepare for the upcoming Youth Food Jam, Urban Roots youth leaders—graduates of the organization’s six-month Farm Internship Program and current participants in its Advanced Leadership Academy—spent the fall polishing their leadership skills on the Urban Roots farm, engaging with volunteers through farm work and giving back to the community through produce donations. In addition, they’ve been hard at work preparing a creative leadership workshop to share at the Food Jam. To flesh out the event, they’ve invited other youth groups (and a few adults) from across Central Texas to lead hands-on, interactive workshops on cooking, cultural and food history, public speaking, creative leadership and food justice. By planning and implementing a peer-led conference focused on youth empowerment, nutrition and food equity, the Urban Roots leaders hope to re-create the experience of the RIC gathering, and inspire others to get more involved in food and justice movements in their own communities.
José Morin is a youth leader at Urban Roots. Ian Crawford is the programs and operations director for Urban Roots. For more information, visit urbanrootsatx.org or call 512-750-8019.