Food Sustainability | A Conversation with Erin Healy, Youth LEAD Founder

In a world where production and consumption of mass produced food items is the norm, one Miami-based nonprofit organization stands out among the rest as promoting a much healthier way of eating. Youth L.E.A.D. is a “food justice” organization devoted to getting youth to “adopt healthy, sustainable behaviors and advocate for food & environmental justice in their schools and communities.”

L.E.A.D. runs several different kinds of events. Its “Activist Academy” is a “4-month training that includes field trips, food preparation classes, community outreach, guest speakers, and hands-on activities”; it also hosts adult cooking classes and various farmers’ markets.

Youth L.E.A.D. Farmers’ Markets Schedule
Saturdays Noon-3pm | behind Arcola Lakes Library | 8240 NW 7th Ave
Sundays 11am-1pm | St. Philip Neri Church | Bunche Park Rd & NW 157th Street
Last Saturday of each month 11am-2pm | LAB | 400 NW 26th Street

I recently caught up with L.E.A.D.’s founder, Erin Healy, and asked her about her inspiration for L.E.A.D. and her thoughts on the current state of food production in the world.

Cover of Eating Animals

Her impetus to start L.E.A.D. came from a genuine concern with the health and environmental problems that were being brought about by big companies in the food industry in the past few years. She explained how genetically enhanced foods cause an array of health problems for their consumers, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and how the current agricultural system is one of the leading causes of global warming. Personally, and through her organization, Healy advocates the production and consumption of locally grown produce and food items that are tastier and more organic than their current mass-produced counterparts.

Healy’s ideas ring true in today’s society, where pieces of nonfiction such as Jonathan Foer’s Eating Animals reveal the nasty side of our efficient food production techniques.

But the question is one of feasibility – can we actually afford, in these harsh economic times, to switch, on a large scale, to production of our own fruits and vegetables? Healy argues that people who could feasibly do this, don’t. There’s a good number of common folk that could switch to independent production that don’t, and when this collective follows suit, we’ll be much better off as a society.

L.E.A.D. reaches out namely to impoverished or otherwise low-income communities in Miami Dade County, such as Overtown or Little Haiti. Healy argues that this is the case for two reasons: one, because it’s generally such communities whose interests are least represented in government; two, because of an anti-stereotypical envelope – not all people concerned about the environment are white, middle-class hippies.

L.E.A.D. is currently sponsored by the Miami Foundation but is looking to achieve 501c3 status so as to open the door to more ways of self-funding.

For more details about Youth L.E.A.D., visit http://www.youthleadmiami.org. L.E.A.D. is currently looking for volunteers for its farmers’ markets. Follow youthleadmiami on Facebook, @youthleadmiami on Twitter!

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