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We the Youth…

August 6th, 2011 - By Therese Madden

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A national conference of youth groups gathered in Philadelphia to write a new Bill of Rights. This Youth Food Bill of Rights focuses on changing the food systems in communities across the nation.


“We are Food Justice…”

That’s just one of the chants heard on the lawn outside of the Independence Visitor Center on a recent Saturday afternoon. The hot sun did nothing to damper the enthusiasm of
the 120 young people, mostly between the ages of 15 and 20. They’re hoisting homemade signs and cheerfully letting people know they’re here and they want to be heard.

Directly to the South is Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. To the the North, the National Constitution Center. People walking by are slightly curious, and maybe a little confused. Amy Polk is a tour guide in the neighborhood, she’s dressed in colonial garb, including the bonnet, here’s what she’s gathered. “Something about youth and trying to educate them to eat better trying to get them to sign something… constitution of green vegetables, I guess… I don’t know.”

They’re a group of young food activists and they’ve written a document with their demands for the future; it’s the Youth Food Bill of Rights. “We are here to present, the first ever, Youth Food Bill of Rights.” This group of young people from various organizations have come to Philadelphia for a 4 day conference called “Rooted in Community.” 29-year-old, Ty Holmberg is one of the “elders” who helped organize the event he explains, “it’s a summit of youth from around the nation that have come to fight for food justice and have come as a network of young people to really change their food systems. Not just in their community but nationally.”

Rooted In Community

After days of workshops about leadership and food issues, the youth sat together to write the bill. It took over two hours. Nobody over the age of 20 was permitted in the room while the document was being constructed. 19-year-old Matthew Johnson of Philadelphia says it’s important that youth take action, “we’re the targets in all our states when it comes to the food system, they target the younger generation, cause they like to buy what they like to eat.”

But what this group likes to eat is different. They’re chanting against junk food, “it’s processed, it’s fake, it’s the type of food that I hate,” and soon it’s the moment they’ve been waiting for. “Alright alright, this is one for the history books, we are going to present the food bill of rights, lets go.”

“We the youth, declare, state, and demand the following rights for people around the world with an emphasis on equality. We demand healthy, organic, local, human, affordable sustainable, and culturally appropriate food for all people and especially low-income people of color, and low-income people in our communities, and low-income people that are the most oppressed and hurt by the current food system.”

There are 19 rights in all. They ask for a variety of things, including more nutrition education in schools, an end to genetically modified foods, and healthier options in corner stores. Here is a complete copy of the Youth Food Bill of Rights >>


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