11/10/09 — Farmer pushes children to seek healthy eating

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Farmer pushes children to seek healthy eating

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 10, 2009 1:46 PM

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Will Allen, left, talks with Wayne County Commissioner J.D. Evans at a luncheon held at the Community Crisis Center in Goldsboro Monday. Allen spoke earlier about sustainable agriculture to a group of high school students at Goldsboro High School.

Will Allen is calling for a "revolution" -- against unhealthy eating habits, children with diabetes and inaccessible, unaffordable food.

And Monday, the 2008 MacArthur Fellowship recipient and founder and CEO of Growing Power Inc., brought that message to hundreds of school children gathered in the Wayne School of Engineering at Goldsboro High School auditorium.

"Our food system is in serious crisis," Allen said. "Everybody has the right to good food and we used to eat good food in this country on a regular basis. ... We have to go back to those days.

"We knew the farmers. We knew the food. ... We grew some of it ourselves in our own back yards."

So even if they likely can't yet, at such a young age, create and command a booming farm like the one it took him more than a decade to realize, they can get involved in local projects dedicated to his life's mission.

Like the Wayne Food Initiative, which supports Dillard Academy's school farm, the Wayne County Public Library's garden and county Health Department's Mini Mobile Farmers Market.

Or the urban farm at Washington Park created by Travis Uzzell through the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.

"These young people are going to take the work we're doing ... to the next level," Allen said. "This is a grassroots movement."

Allen's lecture in Goldsboro was his first public speaking event in North Carolina. Later Monday, he spoke at North Carolina State University.

But he knows, given the fact that it took more than decade for him to transform the last farm in Milwaukee into a vibrant 2-acre operation, that it will take more than words to change the way Americans think about food.

It will, he told those students, truly take "a revolution."

"How do we get good food to (the people without access to it) on a regular basis? We have to grow soil and we have to grow farmers," Allen said. "We need 50 million people growing food, and I think we can get there."