NC Youth & Government teams from Forsyth Country Day and Calvary Baptist Day School, winners of the NC Alliance of YMCA’s Real Food, Active Living Bill Awards, were key players in the grand opening of the Robinhood Road YMCA Community Garden with a planting and advocacy day Saturday August 2nd.

Attendees file into the Robinhood Rd Y Community Garden

Attendees file into the Robinhood Rd Y Community Garden

The youth teams worked alongside a volunteer community garden designer and Robinhood Rd Y volunteers this summer to build the garden, and plan this event. More than 300 volunteer hours went into building, planting and harvesting the garden. Over the course of the summer, more than 40 pounds of squash, peppers, eggplant, melons and tomatoes were donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank, with hopes of doubling that by the end of the growing season.

“Throughout the grant process, teens gained life skills that they wouldn’t have experienced anywhere else. ¬†One of the biggest skills they can take away from this is the ability to analyze the way they are communicating to different audiences, public officials in particular,” said Nora Standish, Teen Coach at the Robinhood Rd. Y.

The Real Food, Active Living Bill Awards were announced in February of 2014 at the annual Youth & Government Youth Legislature in downtown Raleigh. The awards went to three teams of Youth & Government teens who wrote legislation supporting healthy eating and active living for their communities.

The funding supported the team’s work to identify a need in the community, and advocate with key decision makers about ways to address the challenges they found. These two schools’ teams chose to work on healthy food access with Second Harvest, a food bank serving 18 counties in Northwest NC. One in six people in that service area struggle with hunger, one third of them children. The teens received training on advocacy from Youth Empowered Solutions (YES!), a North Carolina based non-profit that employs youth in advocating for key health issues.

YAG members with Mike Fenley, Senator Burr's Winston-Salem office staff.

YAG members with Mike Fenley, Senator Burr’s Winston-Salem office staff.

The youth spoke at the meeting about the importance of providing healthy food access to all members of a community, and the role that healthy food access plays in improving the health of the entire community. Community gardens provide access to nutritionally rich foods that may otherwise be unavailable to low-income families and individuals.