Engaging urban youth in sustainable agriculture: A case study of the real food farm high school internship program
Background: Urban farming and gardening programs provide a setting for nutrition and health education through hands-on learning, and are a promising strategy for increasing access to fresh produce within food deserts. Sustaining the urban agriculture movement and increasing demand for healthy food requires local youth involvement. However, engaging urban youth and maintaining their long-term involvement can be difficult. Examining the high school internship program at Real Food Farm in Baltimore, Maryland provides an opportunity to identify successful youth engagement strategies. Methods: This year-long case study followed a group of six interns, all high school students from low-income areas in Baltimore City, who began the program in the spring or fall of 2012. It consisted of observation, a participatory photography project, multiple in-depth interviews with each intern over the course of the program, and interviews with program staff. Results: Analysis of photos, fieldnotes and interview transcripts using a framework informed by Self-Determination Theory suggests several ways that the internship engages participants by meeting their needs for relatedness, competence, and autonomy. Key strategies include providing interns with their own plots of land to cultivate, involving interns in teaching farm skills and meal preparation for volunteers, providing stipends and job skills feedback, and intentional teambuilding within the intern cohort. Conclusions: Through program components that meet key adolescent psychological needs specified by Self-Determination Theory, the Real Food Farm internship program increases participants' intrinsic motivation to participate in urban agriculture. Strategies described could increase the ability of other programs to effectively engage youth.
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Social and behavioral sciences
Describe specific strategies for encouraging youth involvement in urban agriculture.
Discuss the process of youth engagement and how it can be informed by Self-Determination Theory.
Identify the benefits of effective youth engagement for programs and youth.
Keyword(s): Adolescents, Community Programs
Presenting author's disclosure statement:
Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am currently pursuing an MS in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition, with a focus on food access and linkages between agriculture and nutrition. I also have four years of experience working with youth as a former lead instructor for Outward Bound.
Any relevant financial relationships? No
I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines,
and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed
in my presentation.