Writer: Tosheena Robinson-Blair, BSc, MSc
When the pandemic struck, participants in the Governor General’s Youth Award (GGYA) dug into gardening and volunteered to package and distribute food for charities. Unbeknownst to them, their push embodied the theme of this year’s International Youth Day – young people doing their part to innovate and bring change to food systems, the practices used to grow, distribute, market, consume, and dispose of food.
This Thursday, August 12, is dedicated to the role youth can play in strengthening food systems, promoting healthy diets and improving nutrition, according to the United Nations.
“This global observance serves as an opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges we face when it comes to food insecurity, the limited or uncertain access to adequate food. Our problems in this area were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic which caused great financial hardship for many Bahamians, particularly people in low-income households,” said Jacquetta Lightbourne-Maycock, GGYA’s national director.
“This International Youth Day we want to recognize our participants who stepped up and contributed to their communities through backyard farming, donating food items or helping to pack and distribute food parcels to those who needed it the most.”
GGYA delivers the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, a global framework for non-formal education and learning, which challenges young people to dream big, celebrate their achievements and make a difference in their world. Participants must develop skills, increase their fitness levels, cultivate a sense of adventure and volunteer in their community in order to receive a Bronze, Silver or Gold Award.
“Our participants’ outreach demonstrate young people are poised and ready to put themselves out there and assist in any way they can. We have been fortunate to have participants who are concerned with the environment and the health and well-being of others. We hope to continue along this path. It was great to see our young people work throughout the pandemic not for the sake of receiving an Award but simply to contribute towards the betterment of our society.”
In a joint statement, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) noted “a toxic combination” of rising poverty, inequality, conflict, climate change, and COVID-19 threatening food systems with alarming results to the poorest and most vulnerable communities and households.
“A transformation of the food system that listens to the voices of children and young people, and unlocks nutritious, safe, affordable and sustainable diets for every child, everywhere, must be at the heart of strategies, policies and investments,” the statement read. UNICEF and WHO call on governments and decision-makers around the world to “scale up” their efforts in this regard.
Mrs Lightbourne-Maycock hope the voluntary efforts of GGYA participants could create “a catalyst for change,” leading other young people and youth organizations to follow in their footsteps.