Urban Roots MN cultivates and empowers youth through nature, healthy food, and community. Located on the East Side of Saint Paul in Minnesota, the organization provides paid internships for under-resourced youth, ages 14-21, where they “learn and earn” through three food and environmental programs—Market Garden, Cook Fresh, and Conservation. Through their progressive program leadership model, youth leaders develop the confidence and skills needed to pursue educational and employment goals. Funding from Eat the Change will support the Market Garden and Cook Fresh programs, workshops on nutrition education, and their Mobile Market that brings produce to local residents and accepts SNAP/EBT.
What is your role at Urban Roots MN?
My role is managing the Cook Fresh program which means lots of recipe creation and cooking with Urban Roots farm produce, working with incredible community partners on food access, working with chefs on lesson plans they can share with the interns at the Urban Roots, and we do lots of food preservation as well.
How would you describe your community? What makes it unique?
The way I would describe our community would definitely start with inspiring, creative, and good taste of course lol. There are so many people we get to work with. Starting with our 75 east side high schoolers who intern at Urban Roots and really get to shape the program but also the community at large, like our neighbors and partnering organizations that make the work so much better. It's unique because you've got all of these people working together through growing and cooking food.
What inspired you to get involved with Urban Roots MN?
What inspired me to get involved with Urban Roots was how intentional a connection there was between growing food, cooking it, and bringing people together. Also, how a lot of the work is centered around youth voice as well.
How is the concept of change important to your work? What kind of change does Urban Roots MN hope to bring about?
Change is incredibly important to the work Urban Roots does. A lot of the work we do centers around food justice and changing the food system. We grow over 15,000 lbs. of food a year and started to take SNAP and EBT which has been great aiding that food access piece. Through partnerships with East Side Table, we have free online cooking classes we offer to anyone interested.
What are your biggest challenges right now?
The biggest challenge right now is probably figuring out ways to transfer our hands-on outdoor teachings to online learning while not adding to the screen fatigue our interns face!
What is inspiring you right now?
Biggest inspiration right now is our new building! We are in the middle of moving and it's so exciting to have a space that is dedicated to all of our programs! Also, each of the programs at Urban Roots have been thriving and the interns have been so fun to work with.
If you were a plant or a fungi, what would you be?
If I were a plant or fungi, I would be a mushroom because of how gentle on the planet they are, and how beautiful and unique they all are.