By Lisa Colligan, Food Justice Project Intern
Last October, the usual passing of summer to fall was shuffling along; temperatures were cooling, trees were losing their leaves, and gardens were offering up their final harvests. But at Clean Greens Farm and Market, the excitement for food justice was just heating up! Over the course of a couple weeks, Food Justice Project Co-Chair Sophia Kitay and intern Lisa Colligan from CAGJ joined with Director Bri Scott and Kassandra Oakes of Clean Greens to lead a Youth Workshop about food justice, environmental justice, and food sovereignty.
Clean Greens grows organic, pesticide-free produce by and for Seattle’s Central District, on a 23 acre farm in Duvall, WA. Entering into its 14th year, Clean Greens was founded by Rev. Dr. Robert Jeffrey Sr. with the vision of providing healthy food and economic empowerment to Seattle’s Black community. For many, the face of Clean Greens has been Lottie Cross, the beloved coordinator who passed away last year; she is truly missed. (Hear Lottie tell her stories about growing up in Louisiana and migrating to Seattle in episode 3 of the Shelf Life Podcast). Farmers Tommie and Venice have generously donated to CAGJ’s SLEE Dinner every year, and joined us for our first Pacific Northwest Agroecology Exchange in 2018.
While Clean Greens reached out to CAGJ to lead a workshop about food and environmental justice, they been on the ground, putting food justice into practice! Since the pandemic, Clean Greens has donated over seven tons of fresh produce from their farm to the community.
On the first Saturday, grateful to be relieved from another virtual meeting, CAGJ and Clean Greens masked up and gathered in the New Hope Baptist Church around a classroom’s trustiest tool—a whiteboard. Bri, Kassandra, and the older kids sat on the perimeter while the tots sat (or rather, squirmed) criss-cross with Lisa and Sophia on the carpet. After a round of hushes, we pop-corned ideas of what food justice and food sovereignty meant in our lives. “It’s eating all the broccoli on your plate!” the four-year olds chimed. “It’s being able to walk to your grocery store to buy fresh produce instead of driving into another neighborhood,” another added. “Snails!” another excited and restless kiddo joined. And they’re all right!
That’s the beauty of food justice — that the inherent right to nourish oneself happens micro and macroscopically— that flourishing biome creates healthy soil, which grows nutritional veggies, which we can only buy if they are affordable and convenient to access. That healthy and just interdependence of producers and eaters relies on flourishing societies, robust ecosystems, environmental responsibility, and racial justice. After the workshop, CAGJ stopped by the Clean Greens Farm Stand, set up across the street in New Hope Baptist Church’s parking lot. There, community members flocked to the tables laden with collards, carrots, cabbage, and kale — fresh from the farm in Duvall. And in the spirit of Clean Green’s generosity and abundance, we left with our own bags full of veggies.
The next Saturday, Spider-man showed up. And a tiger, a lion, Spiderella, the Flash, and a unicorn. It was Halloween — and though the children’s minds were probably on tucking into their candy haul that night, they didn’t do too bad thinking about fresh veggies and where they come from! That day’s lesson was about food sovereignty, and careers in the food system.
First, we displayed a cornucopia of paper cards with images of veggies, fruits, and meals onto a fold-out table. In small groups, the kiddos got to “shop”, and choose which food cards they think would nourish their bodies, minds, and souls — and take only what they needed so that others could share in the abundance. Next, the children got to “play” jobs along the supply chain through performing skits. They acted out farmers, chefs, grocery store owners, and shoppers. Through this, we learned about the essential people who bring healthy foods to our table — the hardworking farmers, the creative chefs, the grocery store clerks. We learned about how we, as eaters, community members, relatives, and workers all live better when we have power in our food system. That democratized workplaces, where workers earn a living wage, means that healthy, culturally appropriate food makes it to everyone’s dinner table.
If you couldn’t tell from the story above, we had a lot of fun teaching the youth about food and environmental justice. And they taught us, too! Along with peppering the workshops with fun facts about insects or being firefighters, they showed that knowledge of food justice is embodied. They knew to express kindness and respect to their fellow workers along the supply chain in the skits; they knew to leave enough paper “food” for everyone to eat; they knew that they have the inherent right to choose what foods to eat; they knew that this planet provides for us and that we must take care of it.
All of this to say: the Seattle youth are the truth!
Check out the weekly Clean Greens Podcast every Thursday at 3:30 p.m PST.