Community Food Advocates partners with public schools and youth-based organizations throughout New York City to support and develop youth leaders to advocate for equitable food justice policies. Through on-going campaigns, including Lunch 4 Learning’s push for universal free school lunch, we elevate the voice of young people, provide opportunities for youth leaders to develop advocacy skills, and support youth to pass on skills and experiences to their peers.
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Youth Food Advocates (YFA) is a youth-led group for young people who want to learn about social justice, public policy and advocacy, and are ready to create systemic change in New York City food systems, with a focus on school food. YFA are the youth leadership arm of the Lunch 4 Learning coalition. Youth from across the City work collaboratively and develop the leadership, research, and communication skills critical to lead change.
YFA is action-oriented. Youth will:
Plan and facilitate meetings
Create and collect surveys
Speak and/or present at food justice conferences
Create social media campaigns
Publish the YFA Newsletter
Talk to policy makers and school officials
Host guest speakers
Collaborate with school food staff
YFA Program Information
New YFA members participate in a week-long foundational summer leadership training.
YFA members meet weekly (via Zoom) for 1 to 2 hours to plan, organize and participate in campaign actions throughout the school year.
YFA members provide valuable expert input on the school food experience.
YFA members play an active role in the decision-making process to bring about change in four major areas of school food: Menu Flexibility, Cafeteria Environment, Communication, and Emergency Response.
Application is open annually from May 15 to June 15.
Youth Food Advocates
YFA Annual Thanksgiving Campaign
How it Started
In fall 2020, we read a New York Times article about school cafeteria workers and how hard the pandemic had been for them. We were inspired by all of the extra work that the Office of Food and Nutrition Services (OFNS) cafeteria workers had to do as frontline responders during the pandemic.
After hearing from guest speaker Donald Nesbit from DC37, YFA Member Ryoko was inspired, “He said one thing that stood out to me in terms of something we might be able to act on, which was that people working in school kitchens don’t get enough appreciation...” Since we were approaching Thanksgiving, it was the perfect time to show gratitude.
How it's Going
In 2022 we collected over 1,000 notes of gratitude across 14 high school campuses throughout the boroughs.
We surprised the OFNS school staff during Thanksgiving week and gifted them the postcards. We partnered with teachers, school staff, parents, and students to make this campaign a great success.
Nadia, YFA Member, Staten Island, "It was good to see so many students wanting to be a part of the campaign."
Yasmine, YFA Member, Queens, "My teacher really liked the idea and wants us to do this every year."
Click on the image below to see our photo album!
COVID-19 and Pandemic-EBT
Under the Pandemic-EBT federal relief program, all NYC public school students will receive $420 for groceries to make up for missed school meals while school buildings were closed during spring 2020.
The spring 2020 shelter-in-place mandates amplified communication challenges to reach the most vulnerable New York families. Many young people, including our own YFA members, serve as the cultural and language brokers in their households. Knowing this, in May 2020 our virtual work with young people shifted into an online educational P-EBT Campaign. During weekly virtual meetings, YFA members became P-EBT experts, brainstormed youth-friendly messaging and materials, and launched a social media campaign, including a live online P-EBT Q&A Lunchtime. Our young people reached nearly 5,000 New Yorkers about the Pandemic-EBT benefit through these efforts.
In March 2016, CFA launched a series of free workshops to youth interested in creating systemic change and building expertise in social justice advocacy. Through campaign examples such as Lunch 4 Learning's push for universal free school lunch, youth gained in-depth understanding of the advocacy process and strategies to create change.
Our workshops are ideal for anyone looking to build expertise as a social justice advocate, get involved in the food justice movement, or connect with other activists. Our hands-on, interactive approach ensures youth learn from each other and build relationships with other advocates.
Youth Empowerment Summit
In November 2015, Community Food Advocates’ Lunch 4 Learning youth leaders partnered with other youth-centered organizations including Added Value, Bushwick Campus Youth Food Policy Council, East New York Farms!, EcoStation:NY, Friends of the High Line, New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College, and Teenergetic, to organize the Y.E.S.! Youth Empowerment Summit for Food Justice Advocacy. The Summit was hosted at Trinity Wall Street in Lower Manhattan and brought together over 100 young people from throughout New York City and the northeast region.
The goal of the Summit was to promote collaboration between youth advocates working toward a more fair and equitable food system. Through youth-led panels, speakers, and workshops, participants learned about how other youth use advocacy to create systemic change around food and related social justice issues in their communities. Participants also learned about current youth-centered campaigns and how these efforts connect in the larger movement for food justice. Youth left the Summit inspired and equipped with new tools to create positive change in their communities.