The York Region Youth Food Committee is hoping to foster a sense of community while giving those interested in food, the impact of food on the environment, and food insecurity the opportunity to lean into their creative side.
With food being intertwined in many ways in the lives of youth, the York Region Youth Food Committee is calling for submissions from the community for a booklet that’s been a year in the making.
In 2020, during the midst of the pandemic, the York Region Youth Food Committee was born out of the lack of community youth groups in York Region focused on food.
“There’s a passion from the youth that exists in York Region, but they would end up going to Toronto,” said Morgan Sage, food policy coordinator, York Region Food Network. “My colleague Gurneet (Dhami) pointed out we didn’t have any youth voices represented in the work we were doing with the York Region Food Network.”
That led Sage and Dhami to found the York Region Youth Food Committee. The group aims to help youth between the ages of 16 and 30 to pursue interests and passion in the food space.
“We got a lot of interest and in the beginning of 2021, we had our first York Region Youth Food Committee meeting,” said Sage. “We’ve been able to create this space for youth to connect and have conversations about issues they’re passionate about, not just about food but also housing, affordability, and our community.”
Last year, while brainstorming ideas about community engagement, one member of the York Region Youth Food Committee suggested a booklet.
The theme of the booklet is food for thought, with the goal to collectively reimagine a sustainable and just food system in York Region. It will feature original essays, stories, poems, art, photos and recipes created by youth aged 30 and under who live, work or have roots in the Region.
“It’s a co-design process with us and we had a suggestion to create some sort of publication that engages youth beyond our group,” said Sage. “We want to create a space where youth can contribute ideas and engage in a dialogue through the booklet.”
Sage said there’s a civic engagement piece to the booklet too, with food being political at times, as well as a cultural piece with York Region being rich with different cultures.
“It’s creating a space to have these conversations,” she said. “It all comes back to trying to create something youth specific in York Region.”
The goal with the booklet is for those who submit to it to stay true to themselves and embrace whatever style of writing or art that they feel best fits them.
“We want people to have creativity,” said Sage. “We want people to take a more artistic approach if that’s what they want. There’s even someone submitting two recipes because it’s food he makes with his family and he just really enjoys the process of cooking with his family. So while we have the food for thought theme, it’s really broad and it all comes back to culture, connection, sustainability, and justice.”
Youth in York Region who are looking to submit to the booklet have question prompts, such as "what are the strengths of the local food system?" and "how can justice be promoted to ensure equitable growing, producing, transporting and distributing of food?"
While the prompts can be helpful for finding inspiration, Sage said by no means are they required to be answered and that youth who would like to submit work should do what they feel best gets their experience with food across.
“We want to lean into that fun art side because there’s a lot of fun and playfulness in our group,” said Sage. “It felt true to us to allow the freedom for people to pursue whatever felt right for them.”
All submissions to the booklet must be an original worth of the author(s), written pieces can be a maximum of 2,500 words, visual pieces must be accompanied by a short description, visual pieces must fit an 8.5 x 11-inch page, and submissions must not be in PDF format.