YOUTH-LED PROJECTS

 

Learn about our food systems.

Build relevant, transferable skills.

Explore career options in the food and agriculture sectors.

 The primary goal of our youth-led projects is to engage high school age youth in food systems learning and leadership development while exploring career options in the agriculture and food sectors. As it stands, most of today’s young people are largely unaware of how food is produced, processed, distributed, and disposed of. Recognizing that the average Canadian farmer is now 55 to 59 years old, and that 1 in 8 people in Canada hold jobs in food-related industries, we believe that youth must be encouraged to see viability in food careers, and in the vast potential for increasing the sustainability of our food systems through these career options. We also believe that youth need opportunities to develop practical, transferable skills and to be empowered to become strong leaders in the food and agriculture sectors.

 

Did you know that there are hundreds of careers that directly or indirectly influence our food systems in Canada? Or that an increasing number of emerging food systems careers require advanced skills or education?

For most high school students, the answer is no. 

 

So we asked:

How can a young person pursue an agricultural or food sector career without sufficient knowledge of our food systems, without their own skill and leadership development, and without anyone in this sector to turn to for information?

Our various projects work separately and in conjunction with one another to achieve our objectives. Staff facilitate youth-led roles, providing resources and supporting self-directed learning, skill and leadership development, and career exploration. Below are some of the highlights:

Combining Learning & Action: Youth Food Market

Our Youth Food Market project works with a group of high school students each year, our “Market Leaders”, to plan and organize a series of pop-up produce markets in Waterloo Region. Market Leaders plant food gardens in plots shared by our school and community partners, source produce from local growers and food businesses, harvest seasonal produce, conduct secondary community research to determine pricing, and promote and staff an affordably-priced market stall, with proceeds going to further youth programming. Through these programs, youth collaborate online and in-person to learn agricultural science and practice, while gaining valuable practical experience in communication, logistics, research, marketing, business, and leadership. 

The adjacent Garden Education Program, in collaboration with community partners, engages youth in outdoor physical activity, social learning with peers, and a facilitated exploration of food security through a series of garden-based workshops and regular hands-on food production opportunities in community and school gardens. Youth participants spend time in face-to-face garden activities with their peers and adult mentors, where they are able to build relationships, collaborate, and solve problems in real time. Conversations with staff and facilitators provide opportunities for youth to learn about education and career pathways while exploring their interests. 

Take a look at what we accomplished with the Youth Food Market in 2021 and 2022;

And check out the 2022 Garden Education Program! 

Career Learning and Mentorship: Food Leader Interview Series

Our Food Leader Interview Series, “What Do You Bring to the Table?”, connects youth with people working in food systems careers to learn about paths for education and employment, and share what they have learned in a video interview series on YouTube, podcast series, and career profile infographics. Our staff support youth as they explore their interests in future food systems work, and connect them with mentors working with these careers. Youth develop interview questions, connect with mentors for interviews, and assist in the editing and promoting of the recorded interviews. Youth then take the lead in transforming the videos into audio podcast episodes and infographics for peer-to-peer multimodal learning. 

Visit the interview series page

Inquiry and Communications: The Youth Blog

Our youth-led blog is made up of regularly released posts that are written, edited, designed, and published by youth volunteers. Youth are given significant autonomy in selecting food systems-related topics of interest or importance to them, and to undertake research to develop resources for communicating what they have learned with their peers. 

Visit the blog

A teenager using a laptop.     

Elevating Youth Voices: The Advisory Council (COMING SOON!)

Are you a high school student looking for ways to get involved? Each of our projects works within a youth-led model, and there are a number of year-round remote and seasonal in-person opportunities for involvement. Plus, you can get some community service hours by joining us!

 

From April 2021 to October 2022, we have directly engaged over 180 youth volunteers across southern Ontario in our youth-led projects. Here’s some of what they had to say about their work with us:

As a volunteer on the Promotions and Finance team. I’ve gained countless priceless experiences through July and August’s Youth Food Markets. It’s allowed me to get out of my comfort zone, plan each small detail beforehand, create a variety of fun marketing videos/flyers/emails,  take on leadership roles, work with teams to understand their diverse range of perspectives, make mentoring relationships with others, become a part of a community with growth, nurture, and knowledge through food markets and make my summer way more magical. It never felt like a hard core responsibility,  it always was something I was extremely passionate about. With the motive to make an impact on youth and the community, not only did I become inspired but everyone slowly became like my second family. Happiness to me became the feeling of astonishment when setting up the market bright and early, the pride when seeing the neighbors coming together wearing their sun hats to commune and support the good cause, the merriment that sparked to work with my dedicated team just to see the food market become a success were all precious memories that will forever be close to my heart.
Jiya

Youth Food Market Leader

As a high school student, volunteering at Youth in Food Systems has enriched my knowledge as well as my skill to a great extent [..] As I contributed to the blog writing program, my research (mainly literature review) skills, writing skills as well as my thought process have improved. All the youth volunteers have always been able to choose any food systems-related topic that they would like to write about. However, at the same time, YFS acknowledges and encourages their volunteers to learn about the other like-minded organizations who work towards the engagement of youth in food systems [..] Last but not the least, my experience with food systems interview was also enriching for me. With the help of WRSFG, I could get an opportunity to interview a Food Insecurity professor who is an expert in the field. Through this interview, I came to know about all the global issues as well as problems in Canada related to food insecurity. Now, I would also be able to share the knowledge with other youth through platforms provided by YFS. I have had an educative experience with YFS and this has motivated me to continue working with them in the future.
Arhona

Blog Writer, Interviewer

Youth in Food Systems has provided me and other teenagers a chance to express our passion or interest in the environment through a variety of opportunities. I am personally a blog writer [..] for YFS and I am grateful for these opportunities to express my creativity, knowledge, and passion for promoting environmental-friendly living through my work. To add, the teamwork and support the staff and other members of our team give are nothing but astounding, not only does it push us all to work closer as a team but it also allows us to voice our opinions and wants.
Jeninaah

Blog Writer

Volunteering with YFS is a great way to learn about environmental science in a practical way, as well as learning leadership skills. During my online time volunteering, I had to work within a group, collecting information, planning routes, and communicating with other members of the organization, like in a professional business environment. At the same time, I also learned about agriculture and environmental science, expanding my scientific knowledge in an interesting way. YFS is truly a great organization that young people would benefit from participating in.
Noah

Youth Food Market Leader

Youth in Food Systems (YFS) has helped me discover a greater passion and appreciation for our environment. During my time in this program, I’ve learned an abundance of environmental issues and solutions, overall benefits to gardening and more! In addition to gaining knowledge on these significant topics, my volunteer position at YFS allows me to share my information on their blog to help our community, country and world. This organization is truly special to me because we are collectively making our world a better place by combining science, technology, etc. to help everyone recognize they are all vital components to helping our environment. Working together in unity will provide for a better future! 
Alessia

Blog Writer

Volunteering at Youth in Food Systems these past two months has significantly impacted my life [..] Through my role as a Social Media Content Creator, I have made posts about food literacy, gardening tips, and environmentally friendly actions with my peers, and I have, at the same time, educated myself and others to take better care of the world around us. I feel that the effort that Youth in Food Systems is putting in to encourage environmental sustainability is making an extremely positive impact on all volunteers and school associated, and this should be continued in hopes of a brighter future.

Grace

Social Media Content Creator

If you are a person interested in making a monetary contribution, you can do so below. We appreciate the support in helping to ensure that our program can continue to operate.