The Youth Element

The Unshared Bounty has been digging into what teens and young adults have been doing in food deserts to bring fresh food in and help residents make healthier choices.

In the battle against food insecurity, passionate teens have taken it upon themselves to help steer their generation in a healthier direction. [1] With the help of equally enthusiastic adults, hundreds of programs and task forces have formed and are taking action. For example, in 2006, a group of high school students from South Los Angeles joined forces with local convenience stores to reorganize and configure their physical layout and signage to promote healthy food.

Along the way, students encountered challenges with the contracts between the storeowners and the food companies like Frito-Lay. These companies often supply free shelving for display of their products and if any part of the display agreement is breached, the storeowners can lose their product discounts. The food displays would need to draw attention by either being placed toward the front of the store, by using the bright display shelves that were provided, or both.

Despite these challenges, the students found ways to legally work around the strict guidelines. They managed to configure the store’s physical layout in a way that would encourage customers to consider healthier options by making those options more visible as a customer enters the store.

These students soon became “health experts” among their peers and were able to bring their newfound knowledge home to their own families. Good Magazine reported that one student helped her mom safely lose 60 pounds by sharing her nutritional knowledge and supporting healthy food choices at home.

In 2013, Students for Service launched Teens for Food Justice at New Beginnings Charter School in Bedford Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy), Brooklyn. The students at New Beginnings built a classroom hydroponic garden that serves as a source of fresh produce, a science lab for the students, and a nutritional education center for families in the community. [2] Given the difficulty of finding fresh fruits and vegetables in many parts of Bed-Stuy, this initiative was especially effective.

In efforts to bring awareness and to get other students involved, Teens for Food Justice has made a number of short videos about the mission and has also used social media to get the word out.

Video by Students for Service

Regardless of where you live, there are always ways to get involved in food justice. Here are a few ways that you (no matter your age) can do your part to fight food insecurity:

  • Reach out to large grocery store chains and ask about getting a mobile market like GrowNYC in your neighborhood or a neighborhood that needs fresh food.
  • Challenge your school or community center to institute nutrition education and food literacy programs for local families.
  • Gather a group of friends and community members and organize a Fun Run/Walk and set up a nutrition education booth on the day of the event.
  • Use the money you raise from the Fun Run/Walk to organize a task force to plant fresh vegetables in your community garden.
  • Help publicize the local farmers markets so no one in the community misses out.

For questions about implementing more programs in your city or neighborhood reach out to your local city councilmember and check out our Resources page!


Post by Jessica A. Bibby – Research Fellow


[1] The Role of Schools and Other Public Institutions, Detroit Food Justice Task Force. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2015. <>.

[2] The Teens for Food Justice Initiative, The Teens for Food Justice. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2015. <>.