08/01/14 — Goldsboro teenagers tackle nutrition issue

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Goldsboro teenagers tackle nutrition issue

By From staff reports
Published in News on August 1, 2014 1:46 PM

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Kamrie Risku, 17, left, and Zion Culley, 18, remove nut grass from the small farm at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems on Wednesday morning during a SWARM youth program.

A group of teens is working in Goldsboro to break the cycles of nutrition deficiency and obesity among themselves and others.

SWARM, or Students Working for an Agricultural Revolutionary Movement, is a teen leadership group, offered through the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, that teaches high school students about nutrition and gardening to provide fresh vegetables in areas where they are not readily available.

CEFS is a joint venture between North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T to provide agricultural education.

Not only do the teens involved in SWARM work to learn better habits themselves, but they also, in turn, teach a summer class to children in kindergarten through fifth grade about gardening.

The group holds a free class each week for six weeks. On average, that class has 40 students each week, said Shorlette Ammons, CEFS outreach coordinator.

"The classes last two hours and there is some lesson on a gardening skill or science skill," she said.

One of those lessons was identifying plant parts, and which parts of plants are edible.

"For stalks we have celery, for leaves lettuce and then fruits and seeds," she said.

Many of the SWARM students will be going on to college or new jobs in the fall, leaving the rest of the summer to tend the garden and work the CEFS farm.

There are eight students currently in SWARM, but half of them are leaving after the summer, leaving plenty of room for new SWARMers, Ms. Ammons said.

Zion Culley, a recent graduate of Eastern Wayne High School, got involved with SWARM two years ago.

"I saw an opportunity to learn a lot about the community and gardens and how they interact," he said.

Since joining SWARM, Culley has changed his diet and how he sees nature around him.

"I didn't know a lot about how what we call food is made," he said. "Processed food isn't extremely healthy for you. I learned how to grow my own food."

Culley was excited coming into his last summer with SWARM -- especially sharing the lessons he has learned with younger children.

Kamrie Risku, 17, is a student at Eastern Wayne as well.

She got involved with SWARM more than a year ago through her friend, Culley.

She said she has learned about a lot about the consequences of not eating healthy foods.

"All of downtown is like a food desert," she said. "And that's really bad because it leads to obesity and heart failure and other things."

CEFS supports other community gardening programs in Goldsboro as well as SWARM.

"We teach these kids so they can take that knowledge and use it and teach it to their parents," Ms. Ammons said.

CEFS has partners that provide heirloom seeds to the program, which are distributed to other community gardens in the city.

Anyone interested in community gardening can start now by getting involved with the garden at the library.

"It's a community garden, so anyone has access to it," Ms. Ammons said. "Just help work the garden and you can pick crops for yourself."

To become involved, speak with the staff at the Wayne County Library in Goldsboro or email Ms. Ammons at sammonss@ncat.edu.