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Illinois teams become advocates for food access, security

Tuesday, June 22, 2021
Food surrounding the words "what does it mean to be hungry?"

What does it mean to be hungry? Illinois 4-H teens are challenging experts in the fields of food access, food security, and food justice to learn how to advocate for others in their communities.

In May, 105 youth at the Illinois 4-H Food Action Summit worked with University of Illinois researchers, non-profit professionals, food advocates, and civic leaders in workshops designed to empower young people to strengthen their leadership and work to create food security in their communities.  The day-long Summit provided both educational workshops and networking opportunities.

“We hope youth walked away from this conference with an expanded vision of what is possible in the world of food systems both academically and professionally,” says Mark Becker, University of Illinois Extension 4-H youth development specialist in food systems. “We hope the Summit sparked ideas and empowered youth to act in their communities.” 

Presenters and attendees came from across the country, as well as Puerto Rico and Brazil.

“It was very rewarding to see the youth working and taking action,” says Flavio Rocha, Portuguese/English teacher at Campus Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil, and summit presenter. “They are so young and already worried about their communities, which was very inspiring.”

Time was also devoted to providing youth with professional networking opportunities, both with presenters and with their peers.

“It was rewarding to connect virtually, and it really gave youth the feeling of you are not alone,” says Rocha. “Even if we are distant, there is this bond that teens all over the world are doing something similar to what we are doing here. Discussing and sharing ideas was so valuable.”

This yearly event is part of ongoing food advocacy work done through Illinois 4-H.

COMPEER Financial provided financial support for this event, through its gifts to the Illinois 4-H Foundation.

Source: Mark Becker, Illinois 4-H Youth Development Specialist in Food Systems, mbbecker@illinois.edu

Flavio Rocha, Portuguese/English teacher at Campus Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil

Writer:  Carissa Nelson, Media Communications Manager, 4-H State Office, carissa7@illinois.edu


About Illinois 4-H: Illinois 4-H is the flagship youth development program of University of Illinois Extension and administered through the College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences. 4-H grows true leaders, youth who are empowered for life today and prepared for a career tomorrow. The hands-on approach in 4-H gives young people guidance, tools, and encouragement, and then puts them in the driver’s seat to make great things happen. Independent research confirms the unparalleled impact of the 4-H experience, demonstrating that young people are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs. 

About Extension:  Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.