07/12/10 — Students vow to forgo fast food

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Students vow to forgo fast food

By Aaron Moore
Published in News on July 12, 2010 1:46 PM

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Troy Herring

Kristen Irvin, right, shows the process of trying to make an "anti-fast food zine" to student Armecia Faison, left, as Kebreya Lewis, center, listens on. The group known as "SWARM," or Students Working for an Agricultural Revolutionary Movement, is a small group of students dedicated to hands-on growing, awareness of local farmers and their products, and helping to educate the community on agriculture.

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Troy Herring

Student Immanuel Bryant displays a handmade "zine" that stresses the importance of local farming and agriculture during a SWARM meeting in Goldsboro.

French fries, cheeseburgers and soft drinks are just a few of the items that don't belong on the menu for Students Working for an Agricultural Revolutionary Movement.

The "SWARMers," as they have officially dubbed themselves, have taken pledges to abstain from fast food restaurants, sodas and sweet tea for the next four weeks in an effort to eat healthier, support local agriculture and raise money for agriculture-related projects.

"It's gonna be very hard for me," admitted Armecia Faison, a student at Wayne School of Engineering. "I really love french fries."

SWARM is a youth-focused group that is part of the Wayne Food Initiative. They recruit student members from local schools, church groups and FFA groups who share an interest in learning about the benefits of sustainable agriculture.

This fast food fast is just one of many activities the SWARM members have undertaken to carry out their mission of education, supporting local farmers and ensuring nutrition is available to everyone.

"Everybody has the right to access good, healthy food," Shorlette Ammons, SWARM's adult leader, said while discussing the group's mission. "We are strong advocates of food justice."

"It's a fun opportunity to experience and to meet new people and change the world agriculturally," said Kebreeya Lewis, one of Miss Faison's classmates at Wayne School of Engineering.

The group volunteers in many community gardens like Dillard Academy's school garden, the Wayne Community Garden at Wayne County Public Library and the urban farm off George Street.

Ms. Ammons said the group has also helped harvest produce at local farms, which gave the student members an education in how agriculture works. The students were then allowed to keep the produce to do with what they wanted. Many donated to the Senior Center and Goldsboro's Community Soup Kitchen.

Immanuel Bryant, another member of SWARM, who recently graduated from Eastern Wayne High School, said that he and his fellow members had heard of other agricultural support groups cutting out fast food as a way to raise money and eat healthy, and they decided to try it.

"Maybe we can break bad habits and learn to eat healthier," Miss Faison said.

The SWARMers have taken their pledges, adding their own personal vices (Bryant said he is going to avoid any restaurant where the food has been prepared prior to his ordering it -- cutting out some of his favorites) and they are currently looking for sponsors who will donate money for every day they go without fast food.

"If I quit, I have to tell them," Miss Faison said. "I have to give them their money back."

"That's not going to happen, though," Ms. Ammons interrupted with a determined smile.

"We're looking for more sponsors like local businesses, church groups and farmers," she said. "We hope to inspire other people by the work that we're doing and empower them."

Ms. Ammon's own nine-year-old daughter, Anansi, also is taking part in the fast food fast, though she is not officially a member of SWARM.

Anansi admitted that she loves fast food, but she is "kinda, sorta" excited about going without it.

"I don't think it will (be hard)," she said. "I'll get over it."

She added that she might find that she wants to continue to stay away from fast food when the fast is over.

"It's gonna be a challenge. Any good reward at the end requires some amount of sacrifice," Ms. Ammons said.

SWARM is hoping the fundraiser will raise money for future trips such as the national Rooted in Community Conference that will take place in Durham later this month, and eventually, Ms. Ammons said, they would like to make a trip to Kenya.

Bryant also mentioned that the group would like to meet urban farming proponent Will Allen, who was featured in Time Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential People, and his farm operation in Milwaukee.

But the main goal, Ms. Ammons said, is to encourage people to buy and eat more local produce because it ultimately leads to better health while at the same time supporting the local agricultural economy.

"We're not knocking fast food, we're just offering people other options," she said.

Although the group participates mainly in local activities, they said that they hope to keep expanding the effort until it reaches a global level.

Bryant said his dream is for all high schools in the area to make a collaborative effort toward sustainable agriculture that will inspire other high schools to keep stretching the movement.