AV Youth & the Just Food Conference

By Becky Maldonado, (AV youth program alum)

Just Food held their annual Just Food Conference on March 12 and 13, and many people of different backgrounds came together to participate in the Food Justice and Urban Farming movements. Individuals took part in sharing their knowledge, voicing their opinions, taking action to solve problems, and experimenting with ideas that revolve around food. 

This year Just Food wanted to create a Youth Track, to give youth who attend the conference their own non-adult dominated space, where they can socialize with people their age. Thus hopefully empowering them to leave their marks on the conference, while also showing adults how the youth are already taking action to benefit the movement. To make the Youth Track possible, Just Food asked us (and some other organizations) to help plan the Youth Track.

Nia, Thomas, and I came together once every week to plan out what activities and food we would have at the Youth Track. The activities helped youth break the ice with each other and encouraged mingling with strangers. While the food ensured all the youth had tasty seasonal foods to keep them awake and happy. These two things came together to strengthen and create connection between groups as we all continue our journey of learning and advocating for the mobilization of our movements.    

My highlight of the conference was learning and seeing people take actions to solve problems. During the conference I learned: rice can be grown in New York, people are coming together to house immigrants and Muslims on farm land to protect them from the policies of the current presidency, and people are organizing a way to employ previously incarcerated individuals through cooking.  


Not only was the conference empowering because I saw people learning, organizing, and taking action, but also because our part in the Youth Food Justice Network was inspiring others from other states to create something similar to our own project. The Youth Food Justice Network aims to connect youth-led groups from all around New York, to participate in learning about and taking place in the Urban Farming, and Food Justice movements. Knowing that other states have groups like us really makes me feel like a difference is being made. Especially since the youth are the future of our country, it puts me at ease to know we will work to push policies in the future that benefit our movements.

After being a part of such a wonderful event I hope to find new ways of supporting the movements. I wish to experiment on the Red Hook Community Farm by attempting to grow rice, just to show people who visit, like I was shown, that it's possible to grow rice here, not just in Asia. I also want to share with people the knowledge and inspiration I gained from attending the conference.

Overall I never felt more important and inspired. It was made clear that we aren’t just taking part in history, but we are creating it. The Just Food Conference made it possible for people of all backgrounds and ages to share how they are involved in the movements. Be it through advocacy, employment, soil sciences, cooking, or urban farming. Everyone mattered in that space, and everyone was free to share ideas and information. The conference successfully made the connections I have to hundreds of people out there very real, and I can’t be thankful enough for that.