Follow Up: April Florida Food Forum
Youth in the Food System
If you were unable to attend the meeting, the full presentation is available to watch online here.
To keep the conversation going, please visit our forum on Youth in the Food System here to add your thoughts and comments.
On Friday, April 30th, the Florida Food Forum on "Youth in the Food System" featured guest speakers Artha Jonassaint, National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Southern Region Vice President, and Lyrica, Zaira, and Nadira, the CEO's and Founders of Bourne Brilliant LLC.
The topic of youth in the food system is one of great relevance to the future as the youth of today will soon be in positions of leadership in our culture. However, it is but is also of great important today because, as Moderator Dell deChant says, “It’s relevance touches on education, empowerment, opportunity creativity, and all the issues that are tied up with the contemporary food system. Including concerns about social justice, politics, oppressive features of the industrial food system, food security, and food sovereignty to name but a few. If we are going to engage these issues and concerns, we need to start now.”
The first presenter, Artha Jonassaint, began by explaining the opportunities through which she was able to find her role in the Florida food landscape and beyond.
Born in Hollywood, Florida, Artha’s parents, who had immigrated from Haiti, soon moved to Okeechobee, Florida, where she was surrounded by agricultural richness. Growing up in such a rural area, she was able to connect with the food system in unique ways, like being able to see what production agriculture looks like first-hand.
The school system in Okeechobee also gave students like Artha opportunities to interact with agriculture as it is often a common theme in intra-curricular and extra-curricular activities. Artha explained that she first became involved with the National FFA Organization (formerly known as the Future Farmers of America) in 7th grade, when her teacher recommended that she participate in the Extemporaneous Public Speaking Leadership Development Event.
While being involved in FFA’s state and national-level public speaking programs, she became interested in other areas like dairy judging, food science and agri-science fairs. Yet, it wasn’t until high-school that she discovered her true calling of “building an equitable system in which people have full access to food no matter where they come from and what they look like, and what resources they have at their disposal.”
Artha noted, “Many marginalized communities, predominately communities of color or lower socioeconomic status communities, don’t have access to the food that exists already. And I knew that my purpose in my life is to figure out how we can build a system where people have access to that food and how we can ensure that we know where our food comes from and how we can be tied to that.”
With this in mind, Artha continued to participate in FFA throughout high school as a State FFA Officer, and after graduating in 2018 and 2019, served as State President for FFA. Currently she is a National FFA Officer, serving all 760,000 members as the Southern Region Vice President, but has the opportunity to work with members across the US on various FFA projects.
Thinking of the future, Artha was accepted to Harvard University and is studying Government and Global Health Policy. She hopes to do her thesis research on the new Farm Bill that will pass in 2023, and how the nutrition programs will affect rural America.
How do we incorporate more youth in the food system?
“For me it’s an easy answer…It starts with agricultural education,” Artha said. “If we had agricultural education classes in every county in every school, that’s the first step to making life-long informed consumers in our food system.”
Artha explains, “The cool thing about agricultural education is that it doesn’t stop in the classroom, it also happens in supervised agricultural experiences outside of the classroom.” By allowing children these experiences, and especially in connection with FFA, they gain the ability to not only learn about agriculture but are also prepared to become leaders in the food system.
The next speakers, Lyrica, Zaira, and Nadira, together with their mother Syrheda, began their presentation by describing their journey starting Bourne Brilliant, LLC.
Lyrica first came to her mom at the age of 6 asking what she could do to help her community after noticing a lack of access to food. As the girls were homeschooled, they would often bake and Lyrica came up with a proposal to help with a business. So, in 2013, the family decided to start a bread ministry to tackle the issue of food insecurity in their community in Tallahassee.
They began traveling and connected with underserved populations noticed many things. A majority of those populations looked like them, however, in the foodpreneur arena their images and perspectives were minimal. Also, that a lack of knowledge and lack of resources was an overwhelming problem for people that look like them.
Over the years the business has taken many forms. They started out doing community service then produced cottage foods, eventually selling their products at farmers markets. Later they began catering and ran a mobile business. Then in 2020, they decided to open a brick and mortar bakery and juicer, and are now working on opening a restaurant.
Their business has been rewarding, and there have been many pros including opportunities for advocacy, entrepreneurship, and leadership, personal and professional growth, and being a voice for the most vulnerable population: COC (children of color). Yet, they have experienced challenges. A lack of access to knowledge, tools and equipment, along with exhaustion from their schedules and frustration when adults don’t take them seriously are just some of them.
Even though there are challenges, the girls continue in stride. In fact, they are some of the youngest advocates in several organizations and are also members of several different business chambers. And one of the reasons why they participate in events like forums is to "show that advocacy and using your voice and your resources and begin at a really young age."
Going forward the girls would like to see more youth and families involved in social justice issues and would like youth to be able to share the impact that being a consumer has had on their lives. They also noted that there needs to be an increased understanding of what food deserts and food insecurity means, especially this should be taught in schools, and that state and local government, organizations and entities must do more.
With the conclusion of the presentations, the Q&A session began, which allowed speakers to go into greater detail about their experiences and how to get youth more involved in the food system going forward.
Watch the full recording on our YouTube channel here
Learn about the National FFA Organization on their website.
Find the National FFA Organization on Facebook and Instagram @nationalffa
Learn about Bourne Brilliant on their website.
Visit Bourne Brilliant's plant-based tonic website.
Find Bourne Brilliant on Facebook and Instagram @bournebrilliantco
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Guest Presenter Information:
Artha K. Jonassaint is a lifelong Floridian with an affinity for rural development & agriculture, and a long-term interest in creating legislation to provide for more equitable food and health systems in the United States. Artha is a sophomore at Harvard College studying Government and Global Health and Health Policy with the intention of attending law school and upon graduation. Prior to matriculating at Harvard, Artha served as the Florida FFA State President, a role dedicated to the promotion of agriculture and agricultural education. Artha is currently taking a leave of absence from Harvard College to serve the 760,000+ members of the National FFA Organization as the National FFA Southern Region Vice President.
Lyrica, Zaira, and Nadira (ages 14, 12, and 10) are the CEO's and Founders of Bourne Brilliant LLC! Together (and with their parents' assistance) they have dedicated their young lives to the advocacy of women, children and families to be a voice for the food injustices that exist in their local communities and beyond. Their involvement in several organizations, events, and platforms provides them with multiple opportunities to give and receive support and to have their voices and passions shared with many other influential persons in the food justice space, as well. They look forward to further opportunities to fellowship with like-minded (or not) individuals from different backgrounds, interests and careers who are dedicated to food and entrepreneurship equality. They want to remain catalysts in the international battle for Access, Affordability, Advocacy and more for those of us focusing on strengthening the youth's connections with self, their community, and healthier food choices. "We are small; yet mighty!"
Forum Host: Dell deChant is the Associate Chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of South Florida and a member of the Board of Directors at the Florida Food Policy Council.
The Florida Food Forum is a free event. To support our work, please consider becoming a member or making a donation. For questions or more information, contact us at: email@example.com
Disclaimer: The views of the presenters do not represent the views of the Florida Food Policy Council. We are a forum for the offering and sharing of information and encourage diversity and communication within the food system.