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New Initiative Gives Youth of Color a Voice on Childhood Obesity


The Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing (FCYO) has launched the second phase of their Healthy Communities Initiative, Youth for Healthy Schools.

The first phase of the Healthy Communities Initiative was launched in June 2011 with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Building on the success of that phase, Youth for Healthy Schools is continuing the work toward ensuring that young people from low-income families and youth of color have a voice in the national debate around solutions to childhood obesity.

“Our 2010 scan of the youth organizing field revealed a significant increase in youth organizing groups addressing health disparities with particular interest around policies to create healthier schools,” said Mónica Córdova, program director of FCYO’s Healthy Communities Initiative. “We realized that young people across the country were beginning to join together to demand healthier food in their schools and communities and safer places to play and exercise and that there was a need to gather resources to support this important work.”

Taking inspiration from those findings, and with further support from RWJF, Youth for Healthy Schools was developed as a fellowship program through which youth leaders are placed with a host organization in order to help support their local, state and national strategies. The work of each of the seven host organizations is specifically focused on issues relating to school and community healthy, for example creating healthy places to play and exercise or creating school wellness policies.

“Youth for Healthy Schools seeks to make sure that the voices and solutions of young people of color inform the national conversation about food and wellness policies in our schools and communities, thereby increasing their ability to have an impact on those policies,” said Nijmie Dzurinko, communications lead for the Youth for Healthy Schools initiative.

The seven fellows each receive one-on-one support, and their host organization receives technical assistance that focuses on helping them to tell the story of their work but also includes things that the organizations request, like policy and strategy assistance. The host organizations and fellow for each are:

1.    Padres Y Jovenes Unidos in Denver, Colorado; Fellow: Isaias Vazquez

2.    Inner City Struggle in Los Angeles, California; Fellow: Jennifer Maldonado

3.    Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools in New Orleans, Louisiana; Fellow: Chika Kondo

4.    Youth United for Change in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Fellow: William Shelton

5.    The SouthWest Organizing Project in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Fellow: Stefany Olivas

6.    The Southwest Workers’ Union in San Antonio, Texas; Fellow: Sandra Garcia

7.    The Baltimore Algebra Project in Baltimore, Maryland; Fellow: Jamal Jones

Additionally, eight other partner organizations will also receive technical assistance and engage in peer support: Little Village Environmental Justice Organization in Chicago, Illinois; Grow Hartford in Hartford, Connecticut; Alternatives for Community and Environment in Boston, Massachusetts; RYSE Youth Center in Richmond, California; Youth Empowered Solutions in Raleigh, North Carolina; Khmer Girls in Action in Long Beach, California; Sociedad Latina in Roxbury, Massachusetts; and Make the Road NY, in New York, New York.

"Youth of color around the country have been waking up to the connection between the health of our families and communities and the food we eat in school and in our neighborhoods,” said fellow Sandra Garcia. “We've started building an agenda for school and community wellness and we're winning victories like fresher menu options in our school cafeterias, greater access to healthy local food in our neighborhoods, and more spaces for wellness. We're excited to be at the forefront of Youth for Healthy Schools in partnership with FCYO."