Youth Food Justice Leader Johnathan Hill Shares His Experience at Rooted in Community Conference

Johnathan Hill, a site coordinator at the Ecology Center’s Farm Fresh Choice produce stands for over three years now, recently concluded his summer with an amazing experience: working on the formation of a youth-led, national movement advocating for food justice. Johnathan attended the Rooted in Community conference during the final week of July, and since his return has been elated about his participation.

Rooted in Community or (RIC) is a national network that brings youth-oriented food justice organizations together to form alliances and share ideas in encouraging health awareness, increased healthy food access, and youth empowerment and development in communities across the nation. RIC, which was founded in 1998, has come a long way in expanding its capacity as a forum for youth to participate in meaningful work.

This year the conference took place in Iowa, and Johnathan represented Farm Fresh Choice as a lone delegate. “I’ve been involved with RIC for two and a half years now,” says Johnathon. “I first started off as a just a youth participant representing Farm Fresh Choice. After attending the conference, I was inspired and knew I wanted to be involved more.”

Through his participation in his first RIC conference, Johnathan fell in love with the potential of the program. After seeing how his work with Farm Fresh Choice could be brought to the national level, he seized the opportunity to extend his relationship with RIC before returning this year. When a position opened up on the RIC Advisory Committee, he applied and was granted a position within the organization following the summer of 2011.

Johnathan is the first Farm Fresh Choice youth intern to hold a position on the RIC Advisory Committee, and the Ecology Center is extremely proud to have been a part of his opportunity for personal growth that RIC presented.

When asked about how important it’s been for him to work with both Farm Fresh Choice and RIC Johnathan responded, “I think it’s important for me to work with RIC, because it’s exposed me to two different perspectives. With Farm Fresh Choice I’ve worked towards change at a local level, and with RIC I’ve gotten to see my work with Farm Fresh Choice on a national platform.”

This year at RIC, the group focused on how they could bring all of the associated groups’ wonderful work towards the national level, and how they could produce large-scale change. This resulted in a continued effort to draft what RIC is calling the “Youth Food Bill of Rights,” which was originally crafted at the RIC conference in Philadelphia in 2011. The group also received training on how to force legislative change through community action and worked intensively on identifying new outlets for advocacy of Food Justice.

In his time on the advisory committee, Johnathon has already seen how important his position is and has proudly accepted the responsibility that comes along with it. He has seen how far RIC has come in just the two years he has been a participant and is excited about what the future holds. In Johnathan’s first conference on the Advisory Committee, he helped facilitate the conference, and was able to voice what he thought would make it as successful as possible. In particular he expressed his contentment with playing a large part in the formation of a new RIC website called “Storify,” which is oriented towards creating a bridge between the social networking resources of today in Twitter and Facebook, and using them to campaign for the Youth Food Bill of Rights, which is RIC’s primary focus right now. “It’s amazing to see how we came together to put together Storify, because we had nothing like it before the conference, and after all of the youth’s effort, we do now,” Johnathan said with a wide smile on his face, reminiscing on working with the youth-led media crew.

The RIC experience has been a marvelous one for Johnathan, and the network that he has tapped into will be an amazing resource for years to come. As RIC’s national reach continues to grow, so will Johnathan on a personal level. This is the future he is elated about and rightly so.

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