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  • Dominic Inouye

(Quaran)Teen Thymes: Growing Virtually

Updated: Apr 19


It’s been just over a month now since Teens Grow Greens suspended normal operations, just as we were beginning our Healthy Living unit and anticipating our cooking lessons, work at Weber’s Greenhouse, and the Chef’s Dinner. Sigh.


Drawing on the resilience that is one of our three core principles, the team quickly rallied its collective resources to create an online space on Ning.com so the Teens could continue to learn, discuss, and interact. Within a week of making our sad--but safe--announcement, Teens began digging deep into some of the troubling questions they had when viewing Michael Pollan’s Food Inc. in person at Messmer and Journey House.


Teens had wondered: Even if we know the startling information from Food Inc. about how our food is produced, how can we change our eating habits when healthy food is so expensive? When some of our food traditions are so important our families and cultures? When food deserts, or so-called “food apartheid,” is so tied to systemic racism?


The first step on the new website, then, was to watch Byron Hurt’s documentary Soul Food Junkies in which the filmmaker explores the history and cultural importance of soul food, at the same time as he grapples with its unhealthy effects on his father. The Teens demonstrated their ability to reason and reflect, to respond to each other directly, to agree and disagree respectfully, and to tackle huge issues that adults still have a difficult time even acknowledging sometimes.


So many times, I’d read a post and my jaw would drop. Jamiah, for instance, posted, “I think that when our bodies are healthy, then our minds are, too, so maybe if people had a better diet, then maybe the crime rates in Milwaukee and around the world would be way better than they are now.” Shawnkia entered dissertation territory when she wondered, “Maybe we can’t help but to be drawn to the sugary goodness [of so many foods]. It’s even scientifically proven that sugar is more addictive than crack . . . Maybe we can’t help it? . . . Does eating dive deeper than just our digestive system and more into our neurological system?”


While there was an obvious learning curve getting everyone re-motivated and used to using the “Ning,” as I call it now, we soon established a rhythm that includes a weekly project, a weekly guest speaker, optional activities, greenhouse lessons from Claire and Kaya, and Saturday video chats during which staff and Teens check in with each other and reflect on the week’s lessons. The transformational learning about healthy bodies, minds, and spirits had begun--just virtually.


In the next posts, learn more about what the Teens have been learning!


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