Teenagers can be a tough audience. Imagine if your challenge was to greet busloads of teenagers with kale and squash and get them to not only try the food, but embrace it. That’s no challenge at all for Food What?! director Doron Comerchero and his crew of youth leaders. Building on a “youth reaching youth” model, Comerchero is three years into his innovative program connecting teens to their food, its origins and their community through a powerful combination of hands in the dirt, feeding friends and family and leadership development. Students who have experienced the Spring and Summer internships are now leading and organizing and empowering their peers. It is a life changing experience for participants and program leaders.
Yesterday’s event was organized by Food What?! alum Jorge Arreguin of Costanoa High School and Brandon McBride from Delta Charter School in partnership with the Santa Cruz City Schools Wellness Committee and the UCSC Farm and Garden. Over 200 middle and high school students came from schools around the county to sample the farm experience and take in a hay ride, vote for their favorite squash, bake apple pies, pop corn from farm grown cobs and carve pumpkins. For many the highlights were encounters with the farm’s goats and chickens and slices of fresh, hot pizza baked by City Schools Food Services Manager, Chef Jamie Smith. We hear the Black Kale pizza was met with rave reviews – a big win with a crowd that turned out to be more enthusiastic than skeptical.