FEEST empowers area students
Students at Evergreen High School have had enough--enough pizza and burgers, that is.
They’re advocating for more nutritious selections in their school cafeterias and for recipes that better reflect their cultures. A group of youth leaders with local nonprofit Food Empowerment Education and Sustainability Team (FEEST) are acting as advisors with Highline Public Schools to create change on the menu.
Khatam Chau, a senior at Evergreen High School, is in his second year as an organizer with the group. He spent the past year helping to revamp the salad bar.
“This year, we took it a step further,” he said. “We had a big goal, changing up school food to be healthier and more culturally relevant. The food wasn’t actually representing us.”
Each month, youth leaders with the Food Empowerment Education and Sustainability Team create dishes for students to sample at lunch, with the goal of finding a recipe worthy of being featured on the regular menu.
Each dish is required to meet the district’s nutrition standards related to fat, sodium and sugar content, as well as essential food groups and nutrients.
Students at Evergreen developed a recipe for butternut squash curry that was so popular that administrators agreed to try it out at the district level.
“Our greatest success is getting our butternut squash curry into all the schools,” Chau said. “People really liked it.”
On March 29, for the first time ever, a student-developed recipe was on the menu at every elementary, middle and high school in Highline.
Having students lead the charge in making change when it comes to food injustice is what Chau likes about the Food Empowerment Education and Sustainability Team.
“FEEST is a collaborative effort, and the youth are at the forefront,” he said.
He explained that when his family first immigrated to the area, he immediately noticed the difference in food being served in the cafeteria and in the fast food restaurants near the school, compared to what he ate at home.
“It made me feel disconnected,” he said.
Then he started volunteering with the Food Empowerment Education and Sustainability Team. The group hosts weekly, community dinners at Evergreen and Chief Sealth High Schools.
The students do all the cooking from scratch and improvise recipes, using fresh fruits, vegetables and halal meat from local markets.
Chau said the dinners made him feel at home and helped him realize the importance of sharing food as a means to build community. “FEEST really redirected my life goals into something more community based,” he said.
He plans to pursue a career in public health.
Empowering students to become leaders, advocates and activists is part of the program.
“Food is essential to our young people’s health,” Lisa Chen, executive director of the nonprofit, said. “Listen to young people. Young people are experts in their bodies and their lives.”
She explained that the program started with a box of extra farm vegetables at Youngstown in 2008. Resident artists worked with youth leaders in the building to cook community dinners.
“At that time, no one was doing food justice work in southwest Seattle,” Chen said. “There was a food apartheid. Access to healthy food was hard to come by in our low income communities.”
For the past decade, the Food Empowerment Education and Sustainability Team has been working to change that and to stop food injustice through its afterschool programs and campaign work.
The nonprofit invites the community to learn more about its programming during its annual fundraiser, slated for Tuesday, May 8. The event, “Make Food Make Fam” will be held at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, 4408 Delridge Way SW, and will include a youth leaders cook-off.
For more information, visit http://feestseattle.org.