Food and Justice Fellowship

Final report for YENC22-188

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2022: $6,000.00
Projected End Date: 01/15/2024
Grant Recipient: A Red Circle
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Manager:
Erica Williams
A Red Circle
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Project Information


We plan to engage residents from North St. Louis County or North St. Louis City, preferentially Black or Indigenous, in a nine-month Fellowship covering Food Equity and Justice, Growing and STEM, and Business and Entrepreneurship.  The Fellows will meet one weekend day and two weekdays per month.  Field trips (to Jefferson City, farms, and food-related businesses) and guest speakers (including government officials, farmers, and business owners)  will provide the Fellows with networking opportunities, professionalism skills, and career and education guidance.  The Fellows will read and discuss three relevant books by Black experts.

Note: for our upcoming Fellowship cohort beginning in September 2023, we are removing the previous cohort's age restriction because we believe it will make for a more vibrant Fellowship class. 

Project Objectives:

The objectives of this project include:

  1. Provide urban residents knowledge and experience of agriculture so they can envision careers in agriculture, food systems, policy, or entrepreneurship.
  2. Provide urban residents with direct experience working with soil, bees, vermiculture, specialty crops, and goats, to help them understand healthy food and food systems.
  3. Introduce urban residents to Black/Indigenous farmers, government officials, and business owners as examples/teachers and to students at the Washington University School of Environmental Studies as peer mentors.
  4. Help residents understand how government decisions and citizen participation affect food systems.
  5. Help residents understand how to start and run a food-related business.

Educational & Outreach Activities

6 Consultations
1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
3 On-farm demonstrations
1 Online trainings
2 Tours
2 Webinars / talks / presentations
4 Workshop field days
1 Other educational activities: Book Discussion Group

Participation Summary:

2 Farmers/ranchers
6 Youth
5 Other adults
3 Farmers participated
Education/outreach description:

We had three fellows successfully complete the Food and Justice Fellowship in the 2022 cohort. The first module on Equity and Justice ran from March through May, 2022 and the second module on Growing Food and STEM ran from June through September, 2022. We were not able to complete the planned full third module of programming on Business and Entrepreneurship, but were able to provide opportunities to learn about those topics throughout the other modules. 

In the Equity and Justice Module, the Fellows attended local municipal government meetings (St. Louis County Council and Planning and Zoning Commission) to learn more about how government functions and intersects with the local food system, participated in a book group on “The Color of Food” by Natasha Bowens, met with a panel of experts on Food Justice including District 4 St. Louis County Councilwoman Shalonda Webb and A Red Circle’s Farming Supervisor Vince Lang, and traveled to Jefferson City to meet with State Representatives about food policy issues in St. Louis. In the Growing Food and STEM module, Fellows helped get our growing space at the Healthy Flavor Community Garden ready for the growing season by planting seeds and cleaning up the space from what was left at the end of the prior season, took a field trip to an urban farm in North County called Phi Global, LLC to learn from farmer Mitch Pearson, had a viewing and discussion of the documentary “Biggest Little Farm,” and helped A Red Circle harvest crops grown at the North County Agricultural Education Center for our weekly food giveaways called Good Food Fridays. Regarding Business and Entrepreneurship, the Fellows attended a USDA information session on the federal grant writing process, attended the local Ferguson Farmers market, and have been involved with A Red Circle during the planning process of our for-profit community-owned grocery store. 

Learning Outcomes

2 Youth reporting change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness
Key changes:
  • Food Justice - This incorporates lack of food access in North County St. Louis including understanding differences between food deserts and food swamps; Black farmers and the history and context surrounding their experiences as well as understanding the intentional withholding of resources from Black owned and operated farms

  • Policy - How it impacts everything in relation to food from production, regulation, access, distribution, licensing and cost.

Results and discussion:

Our Food and Justice Fellowship was successful with the education it provided to the fellows. Grant funding enabled the fellowship to run for a year. Our programming encountered obstacles due to barriers sometimes faced by the community we serve (for example, one participant was unhoused). This is due to systematic, long-term disinvestment of the community. One of the things disinvestment takes away is a greater level of agency and control from its community members. We saw this in our program: six fellows signed up, four fellows were able to receive the first stipend, three fellows completed the program, and two fellows completed a final report. We were unable to continue the fellowship for another year because of the impermanence of this cohort’s situation; our fellows either moved to different areas or started higher education opportunities and could no longer participate. We were unable to find enough people to continue the fellowship for another year. 

Had we been able to provide a larger stipend to the fellows, we anticipate they would have been able to dedicate more of their time and focus. Some of the fellows who began the program had to prioritize other more immediate needs such as housing and work to make ends meet and therefore could not afford to participate in the fellowship. 

We would like to restart this fellowship, but we will change our focus from 19-26 years old to high school age youth. This will better ensure that these individuals will remain located in and around North County for the duration of the program. In addition to changing the target age for the fellowship, an increase in stipend amounts would allow for the individuals participating to have more economic freedom and ability to take-part in the fellowship. 

Our Food & Justice Fellowship programming included:

  • Increased the Fellows' understanding of: Food Equity and Justice, Growing and STEM, and Business and Entrepreneurship 
  • Exposed Fellows to agriculture, bees, vermiculture, specialty crops, and goats so they could envision careers in agriculture, food systems, policy, or entrepreneurship
    • This was through their work on the farm and at our North County Agricultural Education Center.
    • Fellows also participated in the opening of the Healthy Community Market, which A Red Circle holds at the end of every month April through October. The Market provides fresh produce to North County residents. 
  • Increased Fellows' understanding of the link between agriculture, policy, and business and healthy food/food systems
    • Fellows spent time in Jefferson City speaking with legislators and lobbyists about concerns surrounding food justice in Missouri, with a focus on North County St. Louis  
    • Fellows were assigned readings from The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience, and Farming by Natasha Bowens, and held discussions about the different issues surrounding food justice and how many of these are interrelated. 
    • Fellows took a virtual course as an introduction course to planning and zoning via St. Louis County Planning and Zoning
  • Increased Fellows' understanding of government and citizenship, and how they relate to healthy food systems and personal well-being 
    • Fellows met with various local and state politicians (including State Senator Brian Williams)  
  • Introduced Fellows to Black/Indigenous farmers, government officials, and business people as mentors and teachers

Fellows who completed this program produced the following written work. These documents act as tangible examples of the way in which the fellowship helped educate the fellows on a topic that impacts food justice in North County St. Louis.

The Importance of Youth Civic Engagement- Savannah 

Abandoned Housing and Segregation - Jordan McCain

Project Outcomes

1 New working collaboration
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.