November 30, 2015
Participants in the Urban Roots intern program raise food to be sold at local farmers' markets.

Participants in the Urban Roots intern program raise food to be sold at local farmers’ markets.

The movement toward organic, ethically raised food has proven a vital and enduring aspect of the unique Austin culinary arts scene. On Dec. 5, nonprofit organization Urban Roots will encourage the city’s young people to commit to those very values with its Urban Youth Food Jam at Garza High School. This event will include workshops, a keynote address and musical performance, all centered around issues of food justice and building community.

Food justice activists are concerned with ensuring that wholesome food is ethically raised, processed, and transported before arriving on the table to be eaten. Urban Roots furthers its goals by offering Austin teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 paid internships for six months in the spring and summer. These interns work on an urban farm of 3.5 acres in East Austin, raising food to be sold at farmers’ markets or donated to local soup kitchens and food pantries.

Workshops at the Urban Youth Jam will be led by led by Urban Roots youth leaders and past interns currently participating in the group’s Advanced Leadership Academy, as well as representatives from other Central Texas youth groups. Workshop topics will include food justice, creative leadership, cooking and public speaking.

Raj Patel, research professor in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at University of Texas, will give the keynote address. Patel is the author of “Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System” and the New York Times best-selling “The Value of Nothing.”

Local hip hop group Mindz of a Different Kind, featuring former Urban Roots intern Breez Smith, will perform. Free breakfast and lunch, catered by Chipotle, will be provided.

Urban Roots youth leader Jose Morin wrote on Edible Austin that the event was inspired by his experience at the annual conference held by the Berkeley, California-based youth organization Rooted in Community. Morin was profoundly affected when he attended the 2014 meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“The experience is something I’ll never forget,” Morin said. “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.”

Morin and his fellow event organizers hope to bring a similar feeling to young people in Austin. For details on the Urban Youth Food Jam, and to register to attend or volunteer to help, see the Urban Roots website.