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Radical Living garden program plants seeds with Brooklyn youth

9.16. 2019 Written By: Kayla Berkey, Mennonite Church USA 123 Times read

Photo: Vonetta Storbakken (middle) and participants in the Radical Living summer youth program prepare the garden beds located at Calvary AME Fellowship in Brooklyn, New York. Photo provided by Radical Living.

On a sunny day in the Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant, families gather at Calvary Fellowship AME Church to make fresh jam and eat together at the annual “Jam-boree.” Throughout the summer, youth prepare and tend to garden beds at the church, where they eventually harvest food and make meals with what they grow as part of the Radical Living summer youth program.

“We teach kids how to urban farm and educate them about the benefits of eating healthy food,” says Vonetta Storbakken, co-founder and director of the program. “It’s a full summer immersion program for them.”

The Radical Living program is an affiliate of Manhattan (New York) Mennonite Fellowship and aims to equip young participants to become transformational leaders through urban farming and social justice organizing.

“We are a faith-informed community organization and we really operate through the lens of our Anabaptist experience,” says Jason Storbakken, Radical Living co-founder and pastor at Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship. “We do it by actively working toward peace in our communities through our relationships with one another—also through marches and protesting and equipping the young people to understand that they are agents of social change within their communities.”

The program is now in its third year, and Vonetta Storbakken has plans for expanding the summer youth program to more church sites.

“In Brooklyn you have a lot of churches that have kitchens and space that’s not being utilized,” says Vonetta Storbakken. “We’re hoping that if we connect with churches like those we’ll be able to use the space to teach kids about gardening, about making healthy food choices, about the environment, about social justice issues.”

#BringThePeace is a call to action for individuals and congregations across Mennonite Church USA to extend God’s peace in their communities, introduced at MennoCon19 by Glen Guyton, MC USA executive director. As a historic peace church, MC USA is committed to witness to God’s peace. To contribute a #BringThePeace story, contact KaylaB@mennoniteusa.org.

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