By Sharmin Sampat, MS, dietetic intern, California Polytechnic State University

Teen food insecurity is on the rise and threatening American youth and their well-being. According to a report by the Urban Institute research group in collaboration with Feeding America, a nonprofit hunger organization, an estimated 6.8 million youth between the ages of 10-17 years are facing food insecurity. Teenage years are vulnerable and critical in shaping an individual’s future. Being food insecure can have serious ramifications, especially on teenagers as they navigate their way into adulthood. Out of the 46,000 residents in San Luis Obispo who are struggling with hunger, 40% are children and teens.

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Having a monthly Teen Farmers Market at the Lopez High School in Arroyo Grande is how we work to alleviate hunger for this extremely vulnerable population. Lopez High School is a continuation high school and is recognized for its programs that offer a safe environment for at-risk students to succeed. The school offers independent study programs to support pregnant and teen parents and even has on-site day care.

Every month, we hold a teen farmer’s market at the school where the students can choose various fruits and vegetables to take home with them. On January 18th, 2019 we distributed different fruits and vegetables, including oranges, pears, spinach, and radishes. We also had the chance to interview the students who shared recipes they try from the food they choose from the market. They also expressed how it helps them save a trip to the grocery store. To continue our efforts in providing convenience in healthy living for these teens, we hold nutrition education classes on various topics like eating healthy on a budget and many more. We also offer cooking classes to assist in developing important life skills. One of our former Dietetic Interns from Cal Poly, Alyssa Los, taught a class to young parents on infant nutrition which was very well-received and immensely appreciated. A former intern from Atascadero State Hospital Program, Emily Montemayor, held a class on “Eating the Rainbow”, which included a cooking activity.

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At the Food Bank Coalition, we work to alleviate hunger in the San Luis Obispo County and to build a healthier community by involving everyone in the effort. To join our mission, contact us here.