The solution to many of our worldly dilemmas begins on our dinner plates.  Obesity, climate change, escalating health care costs?  All issues with food-related solutions, if only we had the collective ability to implement them.  But how about taking the concept even one step further?  Where most of us recognize the relationship between diet and material outcomes, we often miss the connection between nutrition and behavior.

Food WhatLow income families suffer the most from food-related disease, but did you know kids from these families often experience side effects of poor nutrition, including lack of energy, increased agitation and attention deficit disorders, even while consuming adequate calories?  If you don’t count French fries, pizza and ketchup, more than 50% of Americans eat no vegetables.   Zero!  Yet 90% of us believe our diets are healthy.  How can we possibly find a solution when we?re not aware that the problem even exists?

This is where local youth food justice organization FOOD, WHAT?! steps up to the plate.  Founded in 2006 by activist and visionary Doron Comenchero, FOOD, WHAT?! is a youth empowerment and food justice program of UCSC’s Life Lab  that focuses on food as the building block for growing strong, healthy, and inspired teens.   FOOD, WHAT?!  partners with low-income and at-risk youth to grow, cook, eat, and distribute healthy, sustainably raised food.  Talk about taking the concept of nourishment to a whole new level!

Chef D as the students call him, co-staffer Abby Bell and the rest of the FOOD, WHAT?! team introduce teen students to the wonders of food production, from seed to plate, all of it done sustainably.  Kids explore the topics of nutrition, food justice, finance, professionalism and self-pride and end up with an education that, for many of them, produces healthier outcomes on all levels.

Comerchero’s effective program and impressive results have gained recognition nationally and abroad, inspiring people to start similar programs in their own communities.   Youth empowerment built upon creating abundance, what a delicious recipe for success!!