Urban GEMS employs cutting-edge food production technology to grow healthy foods while promoting healthy eating in urban neighborhoods characterized as food deserts. Students will gain 21st century employment skills through coursework, internships, and service learning projects. Students will become enmeshed in new professional networks among local food industry professionals. As trained social justice advocates for a healthy food system, participants will add a youthful voice and energy to the larger community health transformation in the urban core of Columbus, Ohio.
With funding support from the USDA CYFAR initiative, we are pleased to offer Urban GEMS at two community implementation sites in Columbus, Ohio. At Reaching Higher Heights 4-Life Community Care center, Urban GEMS is offered as an after school academic enrichment program and a summer program to youth ages 10-17 residing in an economic distressed urban neighborhood. Our first Urban GEMS mini-farm was built in February 2017 at the OSU AAAS Community Extension Center. We will soon be offering after school academic enrichment activities in the King-Lincoln Bronzeville community. The Urban GEMS Youth Work program supported by a grant from the Aetna Foundation will allow us to provide career training for students interested in food sustainability careers.
The Urban GEMS program was designed to address the well documented link between food insecurity and school failure at a neighborhood level. Addressing both the educational and nutritional (basic needs) of young people growing up in economically challenged environments requires new thinking. Urban GEMS features project-based learning and youth leadership opportunities, which include tackling real and significant challenges facing the African American community.