By: Arielle Vetro (TYFPC Placement Student)
After attending the “Youth at the Table” networking event at the Food Secure Canada’s 9th Assembly, I’m left with overwhelming feelings of excitement and motivation. First off, the venue proved to be very fitting, as the Toronto City Hall council chambers felt symbolic to our purpose for gathering that evening; to make space for youth in policy decision-making. After speaking with attendees throughout the evening, I was better able to understand why it is so crucial that youth are involved in food politics. In particular, many participants I spoke to expressed that when they don’t see their own identities being represented in food policy decision-making bodies, they felt that their voices were not valid and thus their involvement was not encouraged. However, food policy is and should be important to youth, as we will be the ones to experience the increasingly harmful consequences of our corporatized food system in the future. We as youth need to be involved in addressing these issues within our food system by bringing our energy, motivation and innovation, however in order to do so we must have the space and opportunities to have our voices heard.
One way this could be achieved is through encouraging youth to share their ideas and opinions via youth-led journals and school newspapers. Other avenues can be through supporting youth participation in local community efforts like gardens and waste management initiatives. Personally, I am particularly passionate about the idea of engaging youth through community-development initiatives, such as community gardens; as they can act as a ]way to educate youth about the food system and can empower youth by acknowledging that them and their contributions are valuable and meaningful.
Achieving these goals may however be easier said than done. I believe one of the most significant barriers in youth participation is lack of knowledge. I speak from personal experience when I say that until recently I was unaware of many of the major problems of our food system, and was likewise unaware of the fact that I, as someone with no expertise, could become directly involved in challenging the current food system. I think the first step towards changing this is to reach out to youth in a direct way, which information can be provided about relevant issues, current initiatives and the organizations attempting to tackle these problems. While a direct, in-person approach may be time-consuming, I think that it would be truly effective towards engaging and mobilizing youth to create meaningful changes in our food system.