From the Ground UP: Learning to nourish a community

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From l.: Nourish My Soul high school leaders Kenya Mouning, Jaira Paine and Isabella Vargas Blanchard are shown at the conference in New Orleans. Submitted photo

Members of From The Ground UP, Nourish My Soul’s high school leadership program, recently traveled to New Orleans to present their work with food rescue. These students have studied food systems, analyzed their own communities, and developed projects that improve the deficits they identify through this process. From The Ground UP leaders learned that Americans throw away 40 percent of their food supply, while one in five children go hungry. Food in landfills is a large contributor of greenhouse gas emissions while our soil is being depleted and not properly regenerated. 

In January 2018, these students launched a New Year, No Waste campaign aimed at rescuing food from the waste stream and transforming it into delicious, free meals for the community to help raise awareness of how much food we are wasting. They also rehabbed a compost located at Granby’s South Congregational Church Garden of Gratitude to create a community compost for those that are intimidated by composting or afraid of attracting wildlife. 

Since the launch of their campaign, these leaders have created over 1,000 meals to serve our community with the help of several partner organizations. They also wrote, and were awarded, a grant from Foodshare to expand their work in 2019. One World Everybody Eats, a James Beard Humanitarian award-winning organization that assists with developing Community Cafes (pay what you can model), heard of From The Ground UP’s work and asked the student leaders to present at their upcoming conference so others can learn how to utilize food rescue from our young leaders. 

Nourish My Soul is a nonprofit that builds communities around food and is dedicated to improving the food system through community-based agriculture, nutrition education, and youth empowerment while advocating for food sovereignty. Food is the catalyst used to connect communities, encourage stewardship, and inspire new leaders in the food movement. From The Ground UP is a year-round high school leadership intensive where students become agents of change within their communities through agriculture education and their work towards food justice. If you would like to get involved in their work, please contact Alicia Newton at . You can follow their work on both Facebook and Instagram, and sign up for newsletters at