Teens for Food Justice (TFFJ), a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that New Yorkers have access to healthy, affordable food through youth-led initiatives, has launched a new program to bring fresh produce and healthy nutrition education to Brownsville.
Through the Fresh Food Box program, East Brooklyn residents will be able to purchase a week’s worth of fruits and vegetables, grown by middle school students at the Brownsville Collaborative Middle School (BCMS) hydroponic farm for just $14.
The hydroponic farming program, initiated by TFFJ, is a communal effort led by sixth- through eighth-grade students, who participate in the project as part of the school’s curricular and after-school programming, and the TFFJ youth staff.
“Brownsville faces some of the highest rates of food scarcity in New York City,” said TFFJ CEO Katherine Soll. “The Fresh Food Box program will provide residents with a weeks’ worth of fruits and vegetables in an easy to access location. These boxes will not only supply residents with healthy food options, but they will also allow our TFFJ youth staff and interns to continue to gain business and entrepreneurial experience.”
The farm project began last fall when students converted a classroom to build the hydroponics units, a farming method that grows plants in mineral nutrient solutions instead of soil. The program gives students a hands-on experience that allows them to be part of every aspect of the process, from designing and building the equipment, to choosing and maintaining the crops, and harvesting and distributing the produce to the school cafeteria and, now, throughout the community.
In addition, students also lead cooking demonstrations, offer recipe tastings and distribute health education information to help residents incorporate these foods into their diets.
“In our community, everything is processed,” said BCMS Principal Gregory Jackson. “The hydroponic farm helps my students gain an awareness of what’s possible here in Brownsville. Empowering my students with the knowledge that they can have fruits and vegetables in their diet every day is amazing.”
Brownsville residents can pick up their weekly food boxes on Tuesdays, from 4:30pm to 6:30pm, directly at BCMS. Interested residents are asked to register here. TFFJ accepts SNAP and EBT, all major credit and debit cards, or cash.
“The greatest barrier to eating healthy in a low-income community can be access and affordability,” said Councilmember Rafael Espinal. “The Fresh Food Box program is an innovative solution to both of these issues. The work of Teens for Food Justice has been integral to uniting community needs with substantive solutions, and I am grateful for their work and partnership with the Brownsville Collaborative Middle School.”
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