A day at Buff State

By Ingabire A

It was Monday morning. My co-workers and I headed to Buffalo State College to be taught about college and what it is about, but the students who go there. College is a place I really want to go to after graduating high school. When we went to Buff State my mind was made up.

While I was there I got taught do's and don'ts for college, and we had a tour of the school. The students who were teaching us about their school were friendly and helpful. They even gave us lunch! I had chicken, ice cream and pizza. It was a good visit and I want to go again soon!

The People's Food Movement

By Dakota P

The thing that was most meaningful to me this spring was The People's Food Movement that happened on April 8th. It was about helping to advocate healthy foods around the community. It was good that a lot of people came and helped support the event. I also really loved all the posters on the wall.

I think that the The People's Food Movement was a good event. For example, the skit that MAP youth created was about bringing healthy salad bars to Buffalo Public Schools.

I think that all of the speakers were very inspirational, and motivational. It's inspirational because it inspires you to help and be a part of the community. It's motivational because it can motivate you to help bring healthy foods to your community. One person I interviewed for the People's Food movement that motivated me was Della Miller because she talked about how important healthy foods are instead of junk food.

Radish journal #1

By Soliegh D

One thing that's been particularly meaningful to me this year is The Radish. Oh, how wonderful Radishes are, their beautiful fuchsia skin and crisp which flesh. We, the Farm & Garden group, went to Urban Roots to pick our seeds to grow this year. Going down the racks of seeds I knew what I was searching for - parsnips, peas, potatoes . . . . AHA! French Breakfast Radish 💗

Triumphant, I snatched the seed packet from the display and sprinted to the back table. I slapped it onto the table, thrust my finger at it and gave speech to the rest of the group to convince them to vote for us to plant it this year. In retrospect, I'm not quite remembering what I said, but whatever words came out of my mother did so with such passion and moving force (and possibly a threat) that nobody even questioned whether or not we should plant them. It was unanimous!

Oh, how I long for spring to come sooner; for the radishes to be plucked from the ground and the hear the glorious crunch of the crisp brassica being bitten into. Nothing says summer more than thinly sliced radishes lounging atop a piece of buttered and salted fresh French bread. Nothing tastes quite like a French Breakfast radish, with a rich yet mild taste, but still with that signature kick you can only get out of a radish. The sweet smell of a radish beckons me towards greatness, and always will until the day I die.

Interviewing Dan Ash from Farmer Pirates

Image source
By Maire E

This spring at MAP something that I found meaningful was interviewing Dan Ash from the People's Food Movement. He is one of the founders of the Farmer Pirates, which is a group of urban farmers. He specializes in the Farmer Pirates compost distribution service. I asked him questions all about the Farmer Pirates and urban farming techniques. The information I gathered was put onto information posters the People's Food Movement.

Through interviewing him I learned all about the importance of compost and how healthy soil can heavily impact the growing potential of your plants. This was extremely education for me as I am in the Farm & Garden group at MAP. We are currently learning about this at work and my understanding was broadened through this interview.

The interview with Dan Ash allowed me to have a more in-depth understanding of farming and what goes into doing it without pesticides and fertilizers that are used in commercial farming. We could use this in our garden by focusing on making the best coil we possibly can with compost and other methods. Healthy soil is better for the plants and those eating them.

Meeting Roxane Gay at the UB Distinguished Speaker Series

Photo by the Community of Giving Legacy Initiative who sponsor MAP's youth employees to attend the UB Distinguished Speaker Series.

By Birch K

Last week Thursday, I and a couple other MAP youth got the amazing opportunity to meet Roxane Gay in addition to attending her distinguished speaker talk. Most speakers have a pre-stadium informal Q&A session with a handful or UB students and other attendees. We were in what looked like a classroom, except there were three rows of armchairs - in addition to the regular plastic seats. After her introduction we got to have a bit of insight into her process as a writer and (occasional) speaker. As a growing writer myself, I asked her where her best criticism comes from. She replied that having an editor is very valuable to her. Unless she's indulging in a bit of narcissism, she said reviews are really made for readers, rather than writers. However, her writing was certainly not the only thing Roxane discussed. She also spoke about her guilty habit of watching Desperate Housewives, or as she put it 'skinny people misbehaving.'

She also talked about receiving internet hate. Aa a queer, black, womanist/feminist writer, trolls tend to send her hate. She told us that she mostly doesn't care, but some people make physical threats and that she 'wants to hide in her apartment all the time out of fear' but doesn't take it seriously.

After the Q&A session our troupe took a trip to the buffet on campus and ate our weight in food. Then we went to her actual talk. She was a bit unconventional in that she didn't have an actual speech. She read us some passages and answered audience questions. Her 'talk' was postponed from an earlier date, so there was a significantly smaller audience. Luckily, that meant two of us got our questions answered. I queued up and when I got to the mic Roxane remembered my name! She is a very funny, engaging person and she has a very reserved manner of speaking. It was a great change from the past speakers I've seen and I hope we get to attend more like her.

Meet Dakota!

Hi, my name is Dakota Blu. I go to Kenmore West. I'm also a freshman. I'm originally from Buffalo, NY. I've been working at MAP since summer 2016. I'm here at MAP to know how you guys work, and I wanted to work for so long, so this was my only chance. I really like it here.

What I've learned is that Buffalo has a climate zone and how the garden and the farm grow different kinds of fruits and vegetables; Also, about the healthy corner store issues. My favorite part of the job is going to the farm and garden and turning compost. My least favorite part is sitting in the meeting room because the lights always give me a headache and it's so loud all the time. I also don't like facilitating. A challenge that I face is getting my work done at a reasonable time since I get out of work so late. When I'm in school I'm always worrying about not being on time to work. My future plans are to go to college. I want to be a vet since I love animals so much (even though I'm not a vegetarian). If I'm not in work, I either play basketball with my cousin, stay at home and listen to music (K-pop) or I hang out with my friends. When I told my family I love K-pop I got my mom into K-pop too.

I think MAP is such a good working place, and I'd really love to continue working here until I'm a senior in high school because MAP has taught me a lot of things. I think working here really helped my socialization with people and learning to talk to new people. And, it helped me know that there's never a right or wrong question. MAP is a good place to work, and I would suggest signing up for the summer program to my friends so they could stop being lazy and learn something other than math, ELA, science etc.

Meet Isabella!

Hi! My name is Isabella Bianca and I'm currently 16 years old. I go to International Prep and I'm a junior there. Originally, I'm from Buffalo, but my family is Puerto Rican and Dominican so I kind of wish I was born in Puerto Rico. Potatoes kind of connect me and my mom together because we both love them with hot sauce.

So far I've been working at MAP  for almost a year - since the summer of 2016. I found out about it from my mom because, Rebekah, one of my supervisors, told her about the job. To me it seemed nice and fun so I started working at MAP and I like it. I've learned planting season for certain fruits and vegetables and how to harvest. I've also practice a bit of speaking in front of a lot of people. My favorite part of working at MAP is working in the garden or farm because I like moving around and doing things. My least favorite part would be facilitating because it's pretty intimidating to keep conversations going, running smoothly and being in charge.

Sometimes it's hard balancing school and work because getting to work on time right after school is hard. After high school I'm kind of hoping to maybe I'll get into Yale and be a person who helps people or have a job that travels. Outside of MAP I usually do lots of art, like pottery or do protests. That's how I give back to the community.

Meet Win!

Hello, my name is Win. My full name is Win Thu. I am 14 years old and a freshman at Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts. My major is vocal because I love to sing, that's my passion. I am originally from Thailand. I am trilingual - I speak English, Burmese and Karen. I came to America when I was 2 and have been living in Buffalo for about 12 years.

I have been working with MAP for about 7 months and so far is has been great! I joined MAP because I want to learn more about gardening and because it's cool knowing that I'm only 14 and have a job. Also, that I'm getting paid to do things that interest me. What I have learned so far is to garden 😀 and to problem solve. My favorite part of the job is planting, gardening and farming. My least favorite is writing, turning compost and moving mulch. The challenges I face sometimes working as a high schooler is time management. Some days I have tons of homework and when I get home after work I am so exhausted.

After graduation I have so many plans. One, I want to go on a road trip on the day of my graduation to look around and see where I want to live. Second, I plan to move in with my boyfriend. Third, I want to go to collage. Forth, I want to travel, a lot.

Outside of work I don't really do anything. It's either I stay home and watch Netflix and shove chips in my mouth or go out and spend time with my boyfriend. I really don't know how I give back to the community, except growing plants with my supervisor Claire. I'm interested in food justice because people deserve the best and should be treated with equal amounts of food. My story relating to food is just sitting down with my family and sharing a meal with them.

Meet Messiah!

My name is Messiah Mclaurin. I am a freshman at Tapestry High School. I live in Buffalo, NY.

I've been working at MAP for two years. I like working at MAP because I have learned new things. Before I came to MAP I didn't know how to hoe, how far to plant garlic apart or what scarlet runner beans were. I have also learned how to work around other teenagers without being easily disturbed. Last year when others would be around while I was trying to do work I would complete get off task. Working here helps me have self-control.

My favorite parts about working at MAP are the 'Big Group Meetings' when all the teenagers and most of the staff come together on Monday from 4pm-6pm. In these meetings we mostly talk about unfinished conversation from the previous week. My least favorite part about working and going to school is that it makes me tired. Sometimes I don't get enough rest because I be up all night trying to complete homework. The hard part about having a job and going to school is sometimes I'm not always on time. I'm also only a minor so I have to depend on a public bus to pick me up from one destination and take me to the next. Not all the buses come on time, which can also make me late.

When I graduate high school I want to go to college and specialize in cosmetology. A cosmetologist is someone who does hair, nails and other things with beauty products. I also want to model. Sometimes I catch myself taking pictures for nothing. A couple months ago I realized I want to be a model. Most of the time when I'm not working my spare time goes to self defense. I personally like boxing. I think it's something my body is built for.

The reason I joined the food justice movement is because food is an important part of the human body. When people's food is messed with then so is one's health. I also like speaking on having healthy food in corner stores so parents and grandparents don't have to travel 1.3 miles to Tops market or Wegmans to get a fresh bag of oranges.

I am so passionate about food because your food choices can either help of hurt you. You have to connect with the food you eat.

Meet Soliegh!

My name is Soliegh and I am a sophomore at Tapestry High School. I have always lived in a very art oriented household on the west side of Buffalo. Some of my favorite activities include drawing, listening to music and hanging out with friends. In the warmer months when I'm not at work you're likely to find me and my crew gallivanting around Delaware Park or laying on a blanket in Bidwell. I LOVE THE SUNSHINE!

I have worked at MAP since the beginning of summer 2016. I first heard of the summer program at the Mass Ave farm stand and pursued it because of my interests in food and agriculture. I have learned a lot of good skills at MAP, such as sustainability, advocacy and how to be environmentally conscious.

My favorite part of of working at MAP is all of the farm work (minus moving mulch). My least favorite part is writing blogs. I really enjoy having this particular job while attending high school because unlike school I'm actually interesting in everything I do here and I like having a separate community of people from school.

I'm interested in food justice because like most systems in America, the food system is completely backwards and I feel, often overlooked. The amount of food waste and the number of starving people in this country is completely unacceptable. Another thing that concerns me is the process of producing food that is harmful to the environment, ie monocropping, CAFO's and the way that meat is treated before and after the animal is brought to slaughter.

I have absolutely no idea what I want to do next in life, but the ultimate goal is to own a boat.

Caleb visits NYC

By Caleb G

In February I went on a college trip with MAP to New York City. This trip reminded me of the dangers of complacency. Living in my small city I had grown used to riding the same bus, seeing the same people, and breathing the same air; I had become comfortable. New York City reminded me that the world is so much bigger than I’m consciously aware of.

It’s crazy because we didn’t tour Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty. My favorite moment might have been walking around and randomly discovering this donut company called “The Donut Factory”. I can still picture the Maple Bacon Donut I and I realized I would never have new experiences like this if I am not open to it.

We also went to the New School for Social Research and met with an admissions counselor, Andre. Andre had a unique school and a refreshing thirst for knowledge, even though we were supposed to be the students. Andre expressed to me that his school is more about following my passions and interests, not a specific curriculum. I want to be a family doctor and assumed I would have to take a lot of science heavy classes; which I’m not opposed too, but Andre told me for my undergrad I could take classes like Epigenetics, which is the study of biological mechanisms that will switch genes on and off. He also mentioned Dietetics, two classes that have absolutely nothing to do with each other.  At the New School the goal is to figure out who you are and who want to become, not to fit in to a specific mold. That spoke to me on a spiritual level, I want to spend my time exploring new experiences in the world.

I really enjoyed people watching in New York City. I’m glad none of the city residents were offended by my intrusive stare. I need glasses, but I enjoyed watching how people presented themselves. A common appearance I saw on speeding feet were dress shoes, something I only wear when I want to “dress for success”. So why would people who generally walk most places wear uncomfortable shoes? I got the feeling everyone was doing their best not to become like the homeless men we would ignore.

Farmhouse Construction: In memory of the straw bale greenhouse


In 2007 MAP started building it's first greenhouse. The 520 square foot straw bale greenhouse was "One of the greenest houses in Buffalo and the first and only green house of its kind in B-lo!! WestsIIIIIIDE! Peace." 2007 Growing Green blog post, by an unknown author.

Insulated with straw on a cement foundation, the construction of this greenhouse was a community endeavor. Neighbors, experts and Growing Green youth all helped. Over the years this space has been used to start seedlings for MAP's farm and seedling sale, grow shoots and was home to MAP's first aquaponics system.

After ten years (and the roof blowing off) it was time to say good bye to MAP's straw bale greenhouse as we make way for construction on our new farm house to begin in earnest. We have exciting plans on how to use this new space - stay tuned! In the meantime, take a trip back in time and see the straw bale greenhouse in action!


Meet Birch!

Hi, I'm Birch!

I'm a City High School sophomore and I've been lucky enough to work at MAP. I started here in the summer of 2015. I got lucky at a seed wasp and last-minute I was accepted into the program. Now, I'm originally from a small town called Binghamton, NY, but I've truly growing in Buffalo; MAP has been such a monumental part of it. My family is very big on food. We have a history of disease that my parents believe can be change if we eat right. This is the basis of my food activism. That activism, in conjunction with MAP has allowed me to go from a know-it-all 13 year old novice to a spoken (if a bit sarcastic) 15 year old activist. I have such a great time learning about our food system from the dirt up. I prefer to work in the farm (despite compost turning) because it's so rewarding to see my effort literally blossom before my eyes.

Recently I've become interested in the school to prison pipeline.  I hope to open a juvenile correctional facility pilot. It'll be based on education and rehabilitation through agriculture. My goal is to make it inclusive as possible and eventually inspire teenagers who would have otherwise been forgotten about by our penal system to take the changes given to them in life and improve the communities they come from. Race and equity work is very relevant right now and I hope to be a part of the solution in the future.

Sophia's New York City experience

By Sophia B

The trip I went on to New York City with MAP was one of the best experiences I have had in my senior year of high school. The trip gave me knowledge about the environment and structures of the different schools I have applied to, communication with different people in different schools, and careers that I’m interested in. I learned more, got a clearer picture of who I want to be, and where I see myself after high school, and that was a priceless opportunity.

On our drive to New York; our first stop was Syracuse University’s Falk College and the Food Studies Department. One of MAP’s alumni, Neena, had given us a little bit of background on the Food Studies Department before the trip because she is excited to be a part of Syracuse University. The environment and diversity on campus is welcoming. So, while on campus I realized “Wow Neena was right. I can see myself coming here”. We talked to the professors in the food studies program and exchanged knowledge with them. After this wonderful experience at Syracuse we were now on our way to New York City.

In New York we stayed at American Youth Hostel, one of the largest hostels in the country. This place was epic, cheap and definitely a place to meet new people with a completely different background from you. Most of them are from other countries and want to learn more about America and will teach you about their countries. We stayed there for free because it was a hostels give back and in return we made them dinner for one night as community service. While we made dinner people came to us with questions. For instance, how it like to live as a teenager in America, the challenges and what we liked about it. We also had question for them but I was more interested in learning the different languages they spoke. I learned how to say hi in Brazilian, Swiss and stole some of the German's accent.

It was a breath taking experience touring New York City for it was my first time there. What I can say about it? We visited New York University, The New School and Columbia University. All this schools had one thing in common: students with urban minds. I took a look at the places they spend most of their time in and their views on it. For example Adam, one of our alumni, has only been at NYU for not even a year, but he was confident with the city and most importantly he knew mostly every part of the city. Before that I was nervous because the city seemed big, so he took that burden away from me. He also gave advice on why I should choose New York City for college.

We also met with other teenagers who do the same work we do at MAP relating to food justice and policy work. We come together to join hands in the uplifting food and food justice as one of the issues that will be at The People’s Climate March in Washington DC in April.

This trip was definitely worth it for me because the experience I had in just three days was incredible; it was a college road trip, a vacation, learning experience and meeting new friends rolled up into one. A huge thanks to everyone who made this possible and to Bekah who believed it was going to happen when I had given up on it.

Meet Mariama!

Yo soy Mariama. I go to school at International Prep in Buffalo. I'm a senior (oh joy😀 ). I'm originally from Philadelphia, PA. I've been living in Buffalo for at least 5 years now.

I've been working at MAP since the summer of 2016. I'm working with MAP because, over time, I came to care about food justice for not just my community but also all of Buffalo. Some of the things I have learned while working with MAP are sustainable farming practices, and working for equitable food policy. I also learned that some jobs need different skill sets for the job to be performed correctly.

I think my favorite part about working at MAP maybe the Big Group Meetings (aka BGM) because all the employees get together to report on any new things that pertain to the topic or agenda. We talk about where we are so far for the week, do activities, snacks - it's pretty awesome. My least favorite things may have to be during the summer when we were moving the mulch around. It was just hot and the wheelbarrows were hot, but it was fun too.

There are some challenges I face having to work and still go to school. There is not a lot of time for a social life or homework. Over time, I have developed time set to do certain things - although with a minimum of sleep. After working with MAP and finishing high school I aspire to be either a art therapist or an art teacher because they are passions I hold close. I hope to still live in Buffalo to teach, but it not I would like to live in New York City. Some of my favorite things to do outside of work are create some new art or read. Some of the other groups I like to work with are National Federation for Just Communities (NFJC).

I'm pretty glad I got to work with MAP and have the opportunity to learn all the things I have.

MAP: A Trip to NYC

By Lucy H

On February 21st at 6:30am, I piled into a van with five other teens and two chaperones headed for NYC, with a pit stop at Syracuse. We were visiting colleges, but more importantly we were following up on a connection we had made last fall during the NESAWG Conference. At the aforementioned conference, whose name stands for the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, MAP had made a connection with the Youth Food Justice Network, a network of youth food groups based in New York City. We opened the conversation with them at the conference about collaboration and the food justice movement, and our trip to New York served as a follow-up continuing that discussion.

We met with youth representatives from several of their groups on Thursday, February 23rd, to discuss the upcoming People’s Climate Movement March on Washington D.C. at the end of April. More specifically, we convened in the building at the foot of the Highline Park to talk about planning and organizing our role and participation in the march.

I’ve always had strong feelings toward social justice and a desire to change the world for the better. But, as I’ve discovered, there aren’t a lot of platforms out there on which youth can stand and lead the charge for social justice. This came to my attention especially after attending a Youth Caucus at the CommonBound Conference last June. Now, meeting with the Youth Food Justice Network—consisting of Added Value, Friends of the Highline, East New York Farms, and other groups—felt empowering because it enabled me to take that first step toward advocacy. The ideas we created in that room that day will be put into motion and the effect will be monumental.

For example, we learned that the People’s Climate Movement, as of that moment, did not have anything planned in their agenda that specifically focused on food justice which is, in my opinion, one of the most important aspects of climate justice because it caters to the most basic human necessities. Together, as youths, we came up with a feasible plan to have the issues we fight for be represented in the March on Washington. It felt good to know that my voice can be heard.

Meet Thaint!

Hello to all my readers! I am known as Thaint. I am currently attending Hutch-Tech High School. I've been in the USA for 13 years - ever since I moved from Burma.

I've been at MAP for two school years and one summer. I came here as my first employment and I ended up realizing that I like the work here at MAP, so I've been coming back ever since. I learned so much since I've been working here; from colleges, to native American people. I also learned a lot of responsibilities for myself, such as getting to work on time and respecting people.

My favorite part of MAP is going to places and taking 'field trips' to places like the farmers market and the school's lunch office. My least favorite part would be sitting for too long. I'm a hyper person and can't sit for long. The biggest challenge between school and MAP is that sometimes life happens - events come up - that make it hard to balance.

What is next for me in the future is college and starting a really small 'business' like dog walking. My favorite activities outside of MAP are drawing, editing videos and working out on certain days. I give back to the community by working with the Food Lab [at the University of Buffalo] to help support the Burmese community.

At first I didn't even know what food justices was, until I got with MAP. Now I realize why it's important to know what's going on inside my body.

Meet Sophia!

My name is Sophia Bahati. I am a senior at Lafayette High School. I was born in DRC Congo. At the age of ten my family and I moved to Kenya because my homeland was in the midst of war. We lived in Kenya for five years and then moved to Buffalo.

I started working at MAP last summer and now through the school year. I stayed at MAP because to me, it's more than a job. I find it interesting how MAP opens up different opportunities for me. I get to meet and connect with people, not just in Buffalo, but other parts of the country as well. MAP gives me a change to express my opinion and an exposure to policy, advocacy and representing other teens whose voices might be in the shadows. This is something I would not give up for the world.

The challenges I face with working and going to school at the same time are having different activities in school overlap with my work schedule, so I have to give one up. However, this quarter at work I was able to plan ahead. I had to tell my supervisors the days I will be available in a week. Outside of MAP I tutor ninth graders in my school. I also do translation to new Americans since I speak four languages. This is something that is going to allow me to get my seal of bi-literacy in high school.

After high school I am planning to attend college and hopefully be an international lawyer. I might also be a grant writer so I can start a girl's school and a place for single mom's who have no support in Africa.

Meet Gabe!

I am Gabriel Cohen. I am 17 and I work at Massachusetts Avenue Project, or MAP, a west side based organization focused on agriculture, food justice and advocacy. I enjoy working at MAP because I love all of the kind and amazing people I work with. I also enjoy all of the things I learn at MAP, including facilitating meetings, learning about food justice, farming and other issues that we at MAP try to address.

Two years ago when I moved from the Philippines and settled into Buffalo I started attending international Prep, a simple school located on the west side of Buffalo. Besides working at MAP I also do many other things. I skate, I play the guitar (not well, mind you), I am the current president of HYPE - a youth group based in Buffalo that is dedicated to issues teens face in school - and in general I just try to enjoy life, making memories with the people I love. I don't really have many complaints regarding my personal life, besides my hectic schedule, which requires me to balance my social hours, working house, family hours and personal hours.

I don't really have a unique goal, just to graduate high school with an impressive college application, graduate from college fully or close to debt free and live a happy life with a job and people I love. If I have to describe figures that have inspired me in my life, my honest and cliche answer would have to be my parents, for without them I wouldn't have my drive to succeed, my determined will, my academic focus, my loving heart, my willingness to try new things and my ability to see the best in any situation. I love them with all my heart (even if I don't show it that well). Without them I wouldn't be me. In essence, I'm a simple and overly emotional boy who has been moved around for most of his life, who just wants a simple and happy life for him and the people around him.

Meet Ingabire!

My name is Ingabire Adam. I was born in Congo, and raised in Kenya. By the time I turned 13 years old I moved to the United States. I am a sophomore at Emerson School of Hospitality.

I found out about MAP (also know as Massachusetts Avenue Project, a non-profit organization) in the summer of 2014. Now I've been working here for two years. I originally came here because I wanted a job, and now I realize how much MAP has changed my life.

When I started I was 14 years old. I was so shy and wasn't confident at all. Now that I am 16 years old a lot has changed. I am no longer the girl who wasn't confident and shy like before. The reason why MAP helped me open up was by making me meet different people and interacting with them. Also, we do a lot of public speaking, so I thank MAP for everything. They have helped me to recognize my inner self.

What does MAP do? MAP provides youth education about food and other food related things. My favorite part of my job is that every Monday we have a things called Big Group Meeting. All staff meet and talk about different events and hear from each other. My leaves favorite thing is we don't play games like how we used to in the summer.

The challenge of working and going to school at the same time is trying to balance between the two. What's next for me? I want to finish high school and then go to college and follow my career being a blogger about fashion and media.

What do I do for fun? I go shopping and entertain friends in my house -  they make me laugh. I also like listening to music and singing along. I give back to my community by working at MAP and also sometimes I clean up around my neighborhood.

I am interested in food justice because food is what I eat. Don't forget: you are what you eat! Food is important to me and my family because it brings us together.

Meet Caleb!

It's someone else's responsibilities.
I used to constantly say this when it pertained to taking incentive in government. I trusted the people in my city to be my voice.

I remember my interview to work at MAP in the dark kitchen in the back of the youth center. My future mentor, Rebekah Williams, was asking questions and trying to get a feel for the kind of person I was. As I swiped at flies and adjusted by tie, I told her about the kind of person I strive to be. I was to be the boy who shows up with their resume in classy clothes, I want to laugh the loudest in the room, I want people to look up me to lead. MAP was my first step towards becoming this person.

Fast forward a month into working at MAP and we are going to Participatory Budgeting meetings. We are getting paid to learn the power of cooperation in our community. MAP is giving their employees a leg up by teaching them that the only way to have change in the community is by getting involved; going to school board meetings, starting a block club, going to a sit-in at City Hall.

A month ago Carl Palidino expressed nasty views and he is a man in a place of power. Most people think if you are elected then you speak and represent all people, but that is not the case. We vote and appoint people to help aid justice and government, but it is everyone's obligation to participate in the community and government. That is where MAP comes in. A large reason people don't vote or participate in government is because they don't start when they are young, so it's not a normal tradition. MAP shows us that we have power and responsibility, no matter who we are.

NYC Trip

By Mariama M

The New York City trip simply reminded me of the endless possibilities besides just Buffalo. How it is hard to usually leave during college or after. By going to New York City I was able to meet with other youth that were doing a range or work in the city, from holding feasts to turing an old rail road into a public garden so that all people can enjoy the beauty.

I think I enjoyed the hostel a lot, seeing as it was my first time ever staying at one. The people there were so different. All there for numerous reasons, from studying to just visiting the states. At the hostel we made dinner, which was a range of different types of pizza, and everyone came down to join us. I made friends from Sweden and Brazil. Along with the fun we had, we visited a couple of colleges, such as the New School and toured Columbia campus. Then we went comic book shopping on Broadway near the Stonewall.

I think that visiting New York City made me miss living in a larger city. In a way, living in Buffalo I'm able to still have a large enough city so there are different organizations to meet with and fight for change.

The variety of styles in New York City was so enriching. Or, how there are fresh fruit vendors around every corner. I wonder if Buffalo could have vendors that have fresh fruit and how that could change the city. There's a lot of things in New York City I would love to bring back (besides a better taste in clothes, lol). For example, how the youth we met hold meetings, or the slang they use for notetaker is 'scribe.'

Let us raise a standard to when the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God. ~ Washington, from Washington Square Park

Meet Maire!

My name is Maire and here are some things about me. As of this year I am a senior at Leonardo Da Vinci High School and I can't wait to go on to college. I'm Buffalo born and raised. I really love this city and all the amazing things happening here.

I've been working at MAP since the summer of 2016 and wish I had found out about it earlier. I started working at MAP because I was interested in the goal. I wanted to learn more about urban farming and figured this was the place. While working at MAP I have learned how to be more responsible in order to get myself to work on time and on the right days. My favorite part of work is working on the farm and youth garden. Honestly, my least favorite part is when we have meetings because they can get dry.

Even though I enjoy working at MAP I do find it difficult at time to find balance between school and work. Sometimes I'll have work, but also have a lot of homework and tests to study for. So it is difficult to get it all done.  Even though it's slightly difficult I know this is easing me into how life will be in college. After graduating high school I am going to be attending SUNY ESF for Conservation Biology. To keep myself sane, some of my favorite hobbies are bikes and drawing. I enjoy volunteering as a way to give back to the community.

My interest in food justice really started when I started working at MAP because before MAP I wasn't as aware of it. I knew it existed, but didn't think about it as much as I do now. I always connected to food having grown up going to farmers markets with my parents from spring to fall. This job has brought to connection to another level because now I can connect and understand where our food comes from and how important it is.

Assistance for subsistence: SNAP and MyPlate

By Birch (Sam K)

This Saturday the teenagers (and Claire) of MAP were armed with pens, clipboards and a mission: shop for an imaginary family on a budget while following MyPlate guidelines.

My family of two consisted of one adult and one child. I am working with $72 a week. Planning for 37 meals in total left me with a whopping total of $1.94 per meal. I didn't use specific portion sizes, rather I guesstimated wondering aisle after aisle. To make this challenge more interesting I decided to give my son lactose sensitivity and we eat no pork. I also wanted to make believable meals - avoid eating tune and lettuce every meal - which wasn't always possible.

Trying to follow MyPlate suggestions was hard, especially considering how little it lines up with my regular diet and eating ethics. I'm lactose intolerant and very much against our CAFO-based meat industry. Therefore, all milk and reasonably priced, ethical meat are inaccessible. I'm also almost always on the move, 5 days a week at least. My consumption of grains and fruits is very disproportionate to my veg and protein intake.

Doing this exercise was a double edged sword of inquiry. On one side we did this to challenge the budget set up the USDA for it's meager food assistance. The other was challenging the portion sizes set by MyPlate.

MAP Meets john powell from the Haas Institute

MAP Youth and staff were thrilled to be included in activities during john powell's week-long visit to the UB School of Architecture and Planning. Many thanks to the UB Food Lab and Dr. Samina Raja for inviting us to participate in his visit.

 After attending a public talk by john powell, MAP Youth #CommitTo his idea of a #NewSocialContract:

that is based on a set of core inclusive values, one that builds on our past and embraces our future. This compact recognizes our fundamental belief that we are linked by our common humanity, that we are bound together in our work to secure a fair and inclusive democracy, and that we are united in our commitment to care for each other and the Earth. There are certain times in which we are called upon to rethink, reclaim, and boldly articulate what we stand for, and to act, and we believe we are in one of those times today.

My Bright Future

By Cameron L

I want to be an anesthesiologist because it is a doctor who puts you to sleep during surgery, or at a dentist for surgery. I want to do this because they are paid very well, I want to save lives and I want to work in a hospital where there are new opportunities and new people.

A diet is specific foods you eat to stay healthy or loose weight. A diet is good because food effects a lot of people's lives - like for some, food is a comfort. Another big thing about food is a patients diet is important because if they are in bad shape or health, that means the healthcare provider has to pay more to get the patient back to wellness.

🎵 Making my way down Tops! 🎵

By Win T

The experience I had budgeting for my family for a week of groceries was pretty fun, but also very exhausting. There was a lot of running around, especially since Tops is a huge store and we had a time limit. But, like I said, for the most part it was fun.

We did this exercise to challenge My Plate on a food stamps budget. I had a family of six, with three adults and three kids. My money came from food stamps and I got a total allowance of $156. Per meal I could spent $1.41. The portion size I used were the number of servings - compared to ounces or cups it was the easiest one! I was not very difficult for me to figure out what I needed because I had a calculator for my calculations.

Shopping at Tops was fun and exciting, but tiring. It was easy for me to determine how many cartons of each item I needed because I already had my calculations before hand, and all my little self had to so was look on the back for the serving size. The food was hard to find for me. The thing that helped is that Tops has isle labels on top. But sometimes they don't tell you everything that's in the isle so you still have to do some hunting.

The items I needed were not located in one specific area, but all over the place so I can't really tell you where they were located. The display was pretty fair to look at. There were many different brands and varieties to choose from for just one item. I feel as those the store was so-so to navigate on a budget. Some isles had many great deals like, 2 for $4, but obviously there were expensive items too.

This experience is very different from how me and my own family shop. In this exercise we did lots of calculations, but for my family we just get up and pick up the things we need.

Nutrition is a good addiction!

By Dakota P

In this exercise, my family has $156 per week and $26 to spend per person. I figured out how much food my family needed by the number of people in house. This is really the same thing that my mom does when we go shopping because she always makes a list.  Things I thought about were the recommended amount of My Plate food for kids and adults.

We did this exercise at work because it shows us what we might need to so in the future as adults, and if we have kids. It wasn't that difficult to figure out what I needed for this exercise, because my mom did this before and I watched her do it.  My family is always worrying about what food to get and making sure it's healthy.

For me, the Tops experience was easy because I know what my mom does at the grocery store. The food was easy to find since I go with her and I know my way around the store. The items I needed most were located in the fruit and vegetable section. It was hard to run back and forth between the produce and dairy section since they are far away from each other.

Shopping with My Plate!

By Isabella A

I got a fake family, and I had to go shopping for them on a budget. My family consisted of two adults and three kids. My food money cam from food stamps, and my total allowance for per week is $192. I tried to figure out why protion sizes by using the USDA My Plate recommendations for adults and children. It wasn't really difficult to figure out what I needed, but it was confusing with all the math that needed to be done. I think we did this exercise to show how complicated it is to shop using My Plate standards while being on a strict budget.

The struggle with staying in My Plate standards

My list of purchases at Tops is way different than what I eat on a regular basis. Basically I purchased all the ingredients for lasagna, plus apples, for every meal of the week. I feel as though I might not eat as well as the portions recommended by the USDA because I don't follow those standards for every meal, every day. And I eat junk food sometimes too. I think my purchases at Tops would worsen my diet because it would be unhealthy to eat the same meal for the rest of my life. I think a variety of fruits and vegetables are missing from my shopping list, and that it is important to keep things not boring food-wise.


By Soliegh D

My family has six people in it, including myself. I get $180 in food stamps a week, which boils down to $30 per person per week. I had to shop for 3 adult portion sizes and 3 child portions sizes. I didn't have to do the calculations, because I was absent, so the shopping part of this activity wasn't very hard. We probably did this so we could see what it's like budging for a families weekly groceries.

It is possible to eat a My Plate meal on SNAP benefits. You can't be picky about it though, and you will have to deal with eating the same foods for every single meal, but you will survive. I had a lot of money left over after fulfilling the weekly My Plate guidelines, so I got treats and snacks to try to spice things up. But, to no avail. My fake kids hate me and my boring meals - my family ate peanut butter sandwiches, milk, frozen vegetables and an apple for Every. Single. Meal.

I think My Plate could improve upon themselves if they changed their model or added additional models to accompany more peoples needs based on their dietary restrictions. My Plate doesn't accommodate people with dairy restrictions. SNAP benefits could give more money so you could eat a variety of foods or just be able to afford better quality foods. Just because SNAP benefits allow you to buy the cheapest meats, for instance, doesn't mean you should buy them. They are often full or hormones and are raised in inhumane and environmentally unfriendly manners.

When the Stomach Roars

By Ingabire A

On Sunday my coworkers and I when to Tops grocery store. Our purpose was to challenge My Plate with different amounts of money in our shopping budget. I was getting my money from a salary, so it was a bit different than someone who was relying on food stamps.

I had four people in my family. Budgeting for them, and making sure they had the right meals was a bit stressful because of the calculations and knowledge I had to put in trying to feed them right and healthy.

As I was doing the activity I felt like:
it's a lot of work to budget, and feed people according to My Plate.
 This is because of economic issues and also time to do the budgeting. In the end it's all worth it because you feed the people you love with a nice, balanced and healthy meals.

My shopping compared to how I eat on a regular basis is so different. I had to compromise my shopping because I am used to halal meats, and Tops does not carry halal meat. So, I had to adapt and get what was available. I feel like I eat not as well as the recommendations by the USDA because of lack of money and time, but I try to balance a bit.

My purchases at Tops would worsen my diet if I ate that way every week because there weren't enough healthy food options that were affordable. The staples that were missing from my shopping list were proteins and grains. These items are important because I need grain for energy and I need protein for my bones to get stronger.

Last but not least, I had a fun experience doing this activity!

My Plate, My Budget?

By Gabe C

This exercise was a fun and interesting one. In this exercise I was tasked with shopping for my 'family' of 2 adults and 2 children. My food money came from food stamps. Which, after some budgeting calculations I determined that I had $1.45 smackaroons per meal. This amount is higher than the $1.40 smackaroons average per meal for food stamps. We did this exercise as a means to convey the unfair standards that the government expects us to live on, especially when considering any financial limitations.


My plan of action when shopping was to deprive my family of any food-based joy, and only feed them the essential nutrients, which can be found in chili, milk and apples. Just like nature intended. Theoretically, I could live off a large pot of chili with milk and apples, as these are some of my favorite things to ingest. I would probably get sick of it, but, if my life was on the line, then I would get over it, because starvation is not chic.  I would have to change it up as to stave off my stomach's insanity.

Three ways that that my shopping list is good:
  1. it falls way under budget
  2. it fulfills everything the My Plate recommends
  3. I would only have to cook once a week.
Two ways that this would stink:
  1. It would get boring, fast
  2. It isn't very healthy.
  3. I would end up having my children hate chili

My Plate on food stamps? Challenge Accepted!

 By Thaint T

For this budget exercise I challenged My Plate on a food stamp budget. Was I successful? Read on to find out.

For this set up, I have a beautiful family of 5. Two adults and 3 kids. And the money for my food comes from food stamps. My weekly amount is $192, (or $38.40 per person, or $2.13 per meal). This is more than the national average food stamp cost per meal, which is $1.40. I had to prepare 90 meals each week, Monday through Sunday for my lovely family.

Hey Thaint you might ask, how do you know how much food you need? 

Well, I calculated using a conversion table Danielle provided me. Using cups and ounces I figured out how many servings I need. Servings to me is the easiest way to know how much food I need to grab at the store.

Looking at my list of food that I 'bought' at the grocery store, I can imagine the dishes I could make. I did buy food from every category - dairy, grain, vegetables, fruits and protein. Sure, it may not be diverse, but I still bought a little bit of difference food.

I did buy a lot of canned veggies, but I can still work with it. Plus, it was 10/$10 for canned veggies, and you can't beat that. I did not buy a lot of 'breakfast foods,' but from the looks of it, I can still make a decent breakfast. I bought milk, orange juice, and muffins. What more do you need for breakfast? I even bought fruits. Now my kids can't run away!

Some foods that really wouldn't 'work' would be this Italian cheese blend that I bought. It's a seasoning, so I can't do much with it. I also bought six jars of meat sauce, but no pasta or noodles. I can add my chicken thighs to the meat sauce with cheese and eat it with toasted bread.

I had about $40 left over after shopping. One big difficulty was that time was our enemy. But then again, who does their weekly shopping in one hour?? Either way, I succeeded.