"Youth On Their Own – Feeding the Future"
31-Year-Old Nonprofit Educates Homeless Youth on the Importance of Nutrition
– In February 2017, Youth On Their Own (YOTO) hosted nutrition workshops at five local high schools in conjunction with the UofA Community Garden. The purpose of these workshops was to educate students on the importance of eating nutritious food and living a healthy lifestyle. YOTO’s Student Success Navigator, Diego Coronado, was initially inspired to start this program because he noticed many YOTO students don’t fully understand the usefulness and availability of the "Mini-Mall" – YOTO’s store where youth can shop weekly for food and other basic needs items, free of charge. He also recognized there was a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables in the students’ diets. Diego was interested to see how healthy meals could be constructed from non-perishable food items found in the Mini-Mall, and how this could help the students learn more about nutrition.
The nutrition workshops taught the students how to create healthy meals from items found in the Mini-Mall. Every week, each student may receive 10 pounds of food in order to lessen the financial burden of purchasing meals, but many of them do not know how to effectively and nutritiously incorporate this food into their diet. Representatives from the UA Community Garden worked closely with students to teach them how to utilize the "My Plate" model of nutrition to construct a balanced meal. They also showed the students how to read nutrition labels and demonstrated how to make a healthy snack of yogurt peanut butter dip with apples.
The workshop also encouraged students to maintain a positive attitude about food. Gina Meyer, a Community Garden representative, highlighted the importance of nutritious food before a long day at school. Meyers said,
"We really enjoyed working with the students, and they learned some nutrition tips and facts that are practical for their daily lives."
Almost 80 students participated in the February workshops, and Diego says they are hopeful that more students will be able to attend in the future. This event is part of the agency’s YOTO Group program that works to educate students on a new life skills topic each month. In March, YOTO will take a more legal approach in a series entitled, "Knowing Your Rights." To learn more about the students and the services provided, visit www.YOTO.org.
About Youth On Their Own
Youth On Their Own is a dropout prevention program that supports the high school graduation and continued success of homeless, unaccompanied youth in Pima County. More information on the organization’s achievements, success stories, services provided, and key leadership can be found at http://yoto.org.