Meet Sarah Schoenbaum, an ambitious eighth grader and member of the Marin County Youth Commission. She sees the Commission as a perfect way to elevate her voice as a youth to speak to policy makers and make change in her community. “I wanted to join the Commission and be the youth who could acknowledge a problem that is going on, give strong ideas of how to fix it, and help my community to become a more thriving place.”
On a Saturday in March, Sarah was in the garden of an elementary school in Novato, California, with the Food Justice Committee of MCYC. They were building new raised beds and planting lettuce, cucumbers, red bell peppers, yellow bell peppers, and tomatoes, in order to create a steady stream of produce to serve in the school’s cafeteria. The commissioners built the bed after the group of middle and high schoolers wrote and won a grant about combatting food insecurity in some of the lower income schools in the county.
The Food Justice Committee decided this year that gardens were a practical solution to youth not having access to fresh and healthy schools in their cafeterias. “The most nutritious meal of the day many students might get is from the schools, so if we build up the garden then we will be able to make sure they get nutritious options.” If the Committee is successful with the pilot project with school gardens, they are hoping to implement a school district policy to assure that youth can regularly access fresh produce as part of a healthy lunch meal.
The youth chose this project to help correct inequities in their community. Even though Marin County is a largely affluent region, the schools where they work are 60% or more low-income youth, who rely on their schools for access to a healthy hot meal. Youth are making the connection that access to healthy foods is connected to life long health and the ability to perform well in school. The work of this Committee is a continuation from over six years of efforts representing multiple generations of youth commissioners.
Sarah sees access to a nutritious meal as an important step to health. Some day she wants to be a nurse, so she sees her work as a youth leader as a step in a lifelong dedication to creating healthy communities. “I am being a youth leader by speaking up about how food should be better in the food system.”
“I want to some day tell my child, and be proud when I say, you can go buy some lunch at the cafeteria,” Sarah Schoenbaum.