Food Works, in gratitude


Dear Friends,

We want to thank you and all the Food Works youth, staff, interns, donors, funders, partners and advocates who have poured passion and hard work into this program for the past 18 years. We have seen a youth vision for food access, leadership development, and economic resilience evolve, thrive and now - shift. Over the past couple of years, our capacity to support Food Works at its fullest potential has diminished. We have worked creatively to scale back, and rethink the program and have come to realize that we need to close this chapter of our work. With deep appreciation and bittersweet reflection, we say goodbye to the Food Works program.

Food Works emerged 18 years ago as a small and visionary project nurtured along by the youth in North Portland’s St Johns Wood neighborhood. From growing salad mix in a community garden plot to planning and running a 2.5 acre farm on Sauvie Island, the heart of Food Works has always been the commitment and leadership of youth. Since 2001, over 200 youth have poured their hard work, laughter and straight talk into managing and curating this project. The youth have grown more than 134,000 pounds and sold over $150,000 of fresh organic produce over the past 18 years with supporters and customers across the city purchasing Food Works organic produce.

There have been generations of youth jumping in to grow vegetables and then stepping up into leadership roles to mentor their peers. So many incredible young people have joined us to play games, cook and share food, present at conferences, and host volunteers. We have had incredible staff, youth and interns build a social justice and a farm planning curriculum that has been the heart of the Academic Year Program. So many youth have had their first jobs as Summer Crew, gaining basic job skills while learning (and getting passionate about) where their food comes from. Through Food Works youth have gained tangible job and leadership skills,  built a sense of self, deepened their social justice framework, figured out what they are passionate about, and built community. Food Works has grown up and grown out in response to all the youth and adult support staff who have believed that we all benefit when youth thrive and are heard.

This summer was the final season of Food Works and we want to thank the leadership of Lupita, Ev and Sophia during this time of change and uncertainty. Building on a legacy of youth who selected the Sauvie Island farm site and have been leading the work there since 2006, 10 AYP youth planned and planted the farm and Lupita, Ev and Sophia cared for it over the summer season. We will wrap up the work of this season in early October and moving forward, Village Gardens Community Leaders and staff will be inviting new partners to determine the future of the farm. As we create this path forward we would love to hear from you. Donated by Metro, the Sauvie Island farm site is an incredible resource that we have been sharing with dedicated community farmers and partners. This season, Happiness Family Farms has been growing amazing produce on 1 acre of our Sauvie Island farm. We are excited to continue to partner with new growers on this site. The Food Works learning curriculum is an incredible resource that we will continue to lean on and share, please reach out if you have questions and ideas about how to engage with it.

Though we will work with youth each summer through the Summer Works program, we are not sure what that work will look like as the seasons pass. We do know that we are committed to growing opportunities for authentic and invested leadership for both youth and adult neighbors. We will keep you posted and hope you stay in touch.

Please reach out if you have any questions, ideas or stories to share. And again…a heart full of thanks for all the folks who have touched Food Works and impacted all of us.

With respect,

Kris Soebroto and the Village Gardens team