This post was contributed by Hannah Frank and Angel Cruz.
Youth Empowered Solutions (YES!) is non profit, based in Raleigh, NC, that works nationally to empower young people by providing resources and training to help youth have an impact and create positive change in their communities. In western North Carolina, YES! has been working to empower youth in the development of a healthy local food system. The goal of this initiative is to assist the community in securing access to fresh, healthy food.
Since this initiative was launched two years ago, it has had a great impact on the Asheville area. To begin with, YES! provided support for an ongoing campaign working with city’s staff and transportation committee to make changes to the transit system to reflect the needs of the community.In an effort to ensure higher standards for the public transportation system, the group accomplished their goal of obtaining a second non-elective position on the committee. The position is intended to be filled by a member of the community who uses the bus system, thus giving riders a voice in the decision-making process. With an improved public transportation system YES! is hoping to address a component of food access issues.
Earlier this year, YES! was awarded a $6000 grant from the Appalachian Foodshed Project to help empower the youth of the Appalachian region of North Carolina in their push for access to healthy and affordable food. YES! provided training for youth on how to educate their community on food security, issues around food access and other ways to improve food quality. As part of the initiative, YES! helped local youth run a campaign to increase availability of healthy food at small retail food stores.The youth involved in this project continue to talk to store owners about the importance of promoting the healthy food being sold in their stores. The effort has resulted in the increased visibility of fresh and healthy options in at least one market. The owner of that particular venue agreed to broaden the selection of healthy food and to place fresh foods in a position of greater visibility in the store. The YES! group continues to reach out to market-owners across the city to increase offerings of nutritious foods and to additional youth groups who would like to do something similar in their community. If you are interested in learning more please visit www.youthempoweredsolutions.org.
Hannah Frank is an undergraduate student majoring in nutrition at North Carolina State University. Angel Cruz is a graduate student at North Carolina State University and works on the Appalachian Foodshed Project team as a graduate research assistant.
Updated January 7, 2014: A previous version of this blog post inaccurately referred to YES! as a “program” rather than as a non-profit and erroneously stated that the work began one year ago, when in reality the work had been ongoing for two years.