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.

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.