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Monday profile: Kate Casale

Submitted by on 1, October 6, 2008 – 7:45 amNo Comment

In 2005, Kate Casale started the Growing Youth project with a grant and plans to do a community food assessment. Today, she’s helping teens living at the Alameda Point Collaborative cultivate gardens, relationships, job and leadership skills on a patch of land behind Ploughshares Nursery. Casale kindly took time out of her busy schedule – helping a group of youths work the garden on a gray Saturday, no less – to speak to us for this Monday Profile.

Can you describe the Growing Youth project?
The Growing Youth project works to provide teens with meaningful employment, while addressing and trying to improve community food security and health. We have a bunch of initiatives around food production and community education and outreach, job training, leadership training, and some advocacy work. The teens are really the leaders of the program. They make a lot of decisions about where the project is going to go, what types of programs or services we want to offer to our community, from our weekly produce delivery to our weekly healthy food nights.

How many youths do you work with?
It fluctuates throughout the year, anywhere from seven to 15 high school-age (youths). They are kids who live at the base, and at the Alameda Point Collaborative (housing) specifically. At varying points we have one or two adult residents work with us as part of Alameda Point Collaborative’s on-the-job training program.

The youths you work with don’t have access to healthy food?
But why don’t they have access to healthy food? That’s kind of the larger issue we’re looking to address. There’s a global food system, a national food system that supports the production and mass marketing of unhealthy foods. The way that our cities are laid out doesn’t necessarily provide people with easy access to healthy food. And why can’t people afford healthy food? Because there are some serious economic issues. Healthy food is a basic human right, just like access to shelter and water.

So you’ve helped kids change their eating habits for the better?
Really, it is about just getting healthier together, learning how to make healthier choices. Maybe I am going to choose soda this time, but I’m not going to choose it all those other times. It’s about really setting these guys up for success. Providing that knowledge. And then they share that. They become not only leaders in the community, but great sources of inspiration and information for their families.

Can you tell me the one thing you’re proudest of?
Personally, it’s just been a really amazing process to watch our group grow from this small kind of community-based research project to this large – this entire community effort. Some of the teams we have I’ve had working with me for three years. We’ve formed some really amazing relationships. For all of us, it comes to the relationships we do through work. It’s been really beautiful to watch the transformation we’ve all gone through.

What are your future plans for project?
In the next year we will have our community kitchen built. We will be able to really ramp up a lot of the services that we will provide for the community, in terms of prepared foods. We already do a weekly breakfast, but now we’ll actually be able to have stoves and stuff and a space where people can gather and be able to offer more classes, be able to process a lot more food from the farm. We’re making sauce today and we have to do that on camp stoves. The really great thing about that is that that there is a lot of knowledge and skills in the community around cooking. It’ll enable us to tap in to a lot of that knowledge.

What are you growing out here now?
(Dylan, one of the youths) All kinds of stuff. Basil eggplant, bell peppers, jalapeno, lemon cucumbers, raspberries, grapes, kiwis, olives. Blueberries. We can go on.

Know someone amazing we should profile? Drop us a line at islandblog@gmail.com.

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