I am so honored to have met Tes Thraves almost three years ago. She is an organizer, a strong supporter of healthy local foods, and practices what she preaches. Her newest colleague, Jesalyn Keziah, and I have also become friends, first through email and recently through several face-to-face encounters. These are the two luminous beings who work for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS). Tes explained to me that CEFS has kicked off a pilot program that seeks to build a network across NC of youth working in “good food”—food that is accessible and just, and builds a healthy community. She added that this idea has been in development for two years–including a gathering in late 2010 of ten youth organizations, followed by ten weeks last summer of youth design work (one team in Durham and one in Charlotte). And now, the first cohort of the Food Youth Initiative (FYI) Advisory Council has been hired. She offered that the FYI pilot will host three trainings: Storytelling as Advocacy (took place in March), Summer Policy Institute (slated for early July), and Community Wealth Building and Entrepreneurship (scheduled for the fall). Each involves peer-to-peer training and hones specific skills to help rethink and advocate for a strong local food system.
These youth are also charged with re-teaching this information to the youth within their organizations, building a broad-based network of youth working on food justice. I am proud to say that one of our stellar congregations, Bronze Certified and Blue Cross and Blue Shield Healthy Equipment Grantee, Old Zion Wesleyan Church, have two of the carefully chosen twelve spots of Cohort I.
I met Pastor Billy Roy of Old Zion at the Eastern Come to the Table Conference. I was first impressed that he had driven more than two hours to be at that conference. He was that passionate about these issues. I am constantly encouraged by his faith and eagerness to support any work that includes the Lord and health. It is under his leadership that I met Justin Suggs, one of the FYI youth. He is responsible, thoughtful, loves the word of God, is open to trying new things, is passionate about a purpose-driven life, and so much more, and he is only 22. He is the face of our current leadership, and I couldn’t be happier working with him and his pastor. I would like to highlight an email, with his permission, that he wrote sharing how he and the other representative have fared since the first training in March.
On behalf of me and Nathan we have been doing great, we did present before our board and our youth student body. Over all, we had an excellent response; our youth group stepped up and started a new and improved food pantry in addition to what the church had already established. Older individuals felt so inspired by the acts of kindness within the youth, our senior ladies group (formally known as Wesleyan Women International) stepped up and decided to match us financially in our efforts. Our inventory is consistently being depleted by the growing number of individuals requesting foods, but with our outstanding and contagious participation we are praying for our efforts to outgrow its infancy and reach outside of Columbus County.
Nathan and I really emphasized in our presentation not only hunger issues but the issues about healthy foods, subsistence agriculture issues and organic ideas, and these ideas really caught on with our church. I am looking forward to see what is going to happen. I will share more details next time we meet!
I’m sure you are equally looking forward to what will come next. Please stay tuned.
Partners in Health and Wholeness is an initiative of the North Carolina Council of Churches. PHW aims to connect health as a faith issue. Please visit our website to sign your personal pledge to be healthier, and to find out about grant opportunities for places of worship in NC.