Who We Are
Food Works is a youth employment program that engages 14-18 year old young people in all aspects of planning, growing, selling and donating certified organic produce in North Portland. In 2017, Food Works grew over 15,873 pounds of produce and made $30,921 in produce sales. Food Works Crew Members learn business, leadership, organic agriculture and other important work skills through working side by side with staff, other residents and professionals from the community such as farmers, business owners, and non-profit leaders. Food Works is now a year-round program with multiple tiers of involvement. Twenty youth begin in the 8-week volunteer summer leadership program and receive a monthly stipend for their time. Youth can then move on to employment with the Academic Year Program (8-10 youth) and then again for the summer Market Crew team. Experienced youth can also apply to be Summer Staff who work alongside adult staff to run all aspects of the farm and program. At each level of the program, youth take on more leadership and responsibility.
Food Works is About Growing
Growing the Farm
Youth develop skills in sustainable agriculture by being engaged in all aspects of planning, planting, harvesting organic vegetables at the Seeds of Harmony community garden.
Growing the Self
Food Works' youth learn key job skills such as respectful direct communication, time management, accountability and conflict resolution. Each youth sets personal goals for school and work and identifies their steps to success. Leadership development and enrichment opportunities are also an important part of the Food Works experience. In addition to participating actively in all aspects of program decision making, youth regularly present at professional conferences both locally and nationally.
Growing the Community
The Food Works youth are increasingly seen as ambassadors of health in the neighborhoods. Nutrition education is integrated into the Food Works' program and youth learn how to prepare and preserve vegetables from their farm and share healthy recipes with their customers and neighbors.
Growing the Business
Through selling their vegetables at Village Market in New Columbia, the youth build a wide variety of marketable skills such as customer service, cashiering, retail display, planning, marketing and teamwork. The proceeds from sales are rolled back into strengthening the program.