Urban BEET

Lettuce beet urban pollution!

Photo of Chander Payne

Written by

Eligibility: Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

May 3, 2002

Where are you located:

Bethesda (20816)
Washington DC (20019)

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

http://UrbanFarmShare.org (in-use)
http://UrbanBeet.org (reserved)

Date Started

4/12/2018
(April 12, 2018)

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

My high school has open lunch, meaning students are allowed to go out to nearby restaurants and cafes to eat. I noticed that some kids in my high school never go out for lunch, ever. So I stayed around them a few days, and saw they were eating my school's cafeteria food. I asked respectfully to see the kitchen, and looked into the "vegetable" refrigerator. It was empty. When I asked what the veggie for the week was, I was told, seriously, "french fries".

My family belongs to a CSA, and family friends do urban rooftop farming. I got really excited hearing about their business one night at dinner. It is so good for the city's air quality, and has a low carbon footprint. So I decided that I could help my friends business, by expanding it and helping my schoolmates, of all incomes and ethnicities, gain access to nutritious food at home and learn about it as well.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Food deserts are unfair. In my school and in the homes of many of my peers, often those from lower-income neighborhoods, they are a reality. The lack of proper eating habits of young people is a problem-fueling America's obesity epidemic- but the lack of an opportunity to eat healthy violates core American principles. Many of our legislators decline to take action on unhealthy options in schools, let alone in students homes. It's time to care.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

The best solution to this problem is connecting my school with an existing, successful local rooftop garden. People in my community will be able to buy subscriptions through my website to UpTopAcres' newest farm and customize them as well.
For example, a busy family not wanting to commit too much money may want to choose my share with a neighbor option, in which they will be able to switch off weeks with friends or neighbors. Buyers will then fill out the "zero food waste" form, identifying vegetables they are at risk of wasting. After picking up the subscriptions for a given week, with the help of the green club at school, I will take the data from the forms, and remove veggies based on the results of the form and demand for certain veggies by users of the school food pantry. Those veggies will be resorted, into their own bags, and turn go my school's food pantry. The food pantry is already successfully providing food to students who need it, however they told me that students are in need of fresh produce. Finally, I will pass out the subscriptions to the students whose families purchased bags for that week.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

When Jusuf was twelve, his family left everything behind in his home country of Costa Rica to come to America. His parents' number one priority had always been his education. They came to Washington DC- "the capital of the land of opportunity" according to his teachers back home. Jusuf's parents, despite their English being worse than his, were able to find him a busing program to Bethesda, a place known to have great schools. The first day of school, Jusuf noticed an open room in the main atrium, it was the food pantry. When Jusuf was offered a bag of colorful veggies that were somehow grown on a roof he could'nt refuse! That night, he tried one of the recipes, it tasted like the fresh food from back home. Jusuf succeeded in school, earning straight A's and becoming a student of the month and spread the word about the amazing vegetables in the school to his friends.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Unlike traditional food drives, and "healthy" food establishments, my idea- an on-site distributor of urban farmed produce through schools- is one that is sustainable. It will not add any unused plastic into the process. Also, my idea takes the big benefit that comes from urban farming (lowered emissions) and multiplies it's positive effects (one car- my family's- can drive two miles and feed twenty families for the week). Not only will those families be fed, no matter their income, but they will all learn about sustainability, and healthy food (I will provide educational materials in bags).

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Let's fast forward to the end of season one of the program.
I hope and believe that I will have engaged five paying families and at least 5 other families through the food pantry.
However, the number of students I plan to engage with the educational aspect of my venture (I plan to call it "harvesting hope"), which will give interested high school students meaningful knowledge on the environment and healthy eating , may bring me equal pride. Through a partnership with the teachers I have already talked to about this project, I plan to make this happen in the near future.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

I hope to greatly expand the sponsorship/co-sponsorship program- taking effect in the second season. It will become a very strong branch of my project, possibly taking roots on its own- without need for sale of greens- in inner-city schools such as the Maya Angelou school in DC (an amazing school that acts as an alternative for young black students to juvenile prison), where I have previous involvement.
In the future, I will also take this project beyond new rooftop farm partnerships. One of my friends in the Quarter Zero family recently introduced me to "food computers". They absolutely blew me away, especially from an environmental protection standpoint, and if I can raise the funds, I will incorporate a food computer into my nonprofit

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

I am looking for support of my iterative process. This is a big reason why I signed up for the Changemaker Challenge and I believe my idea will greatly improve. I have developed a second, simpler plan that I can use for this project if needed.

I have met with my grade administrator at school multiple times and will be presenting to my school principal next week. I am sure I will gain school endorsement of this project and hope to gain access to marketing funnels through the school such as the email listserv, and help from my teachers on creating educational materials to put in the bags for low and high income families alike.

I am in the process of developing a website with help from my teammate Kesh.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

I have already met with the school administration who agree to let this happen on site. My Chemistry teacher has also been really helpful as a sounding board for my ideas! I will continue to involve her with this project.

I will pilot a minmally viable product at the local preschool this summer to make sure this works on a smaller, more controlled scale.

As stated earlier, this plan will involve to clubs I am part of at school: the green club and "pantry partners" club, which runs the food pantry and recently bought a new fridge that has been left empty for many weeks this year, which saddens us.

I am also highly engaged in the Quarter Zero Catapult Incubator's alumni network. Catapult has introduced me to so many young entrepreneurs, a few of whom I hope to involve more in this project.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French) (6)
  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani) (9)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Religious minority (non-Christian)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

Chris Kosednar of Quarter Zero (formerly known as Catapult Ideas)!

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Team (2)

Chander's profile
Kesh's profile
Kesh Khanna

Role added on team:

"Kesh and I have been best friends since we were 4. We attended the same preschool, where we plan to test our venture, before taking it to our high school. He is a very talented graphic designer and an awesome friend, as well as a logical thinker. I (Chander) have been using him as a sounding board for my craziest and best ideas since middle school."

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Photo of Chander Payne
Team

Thanks, Olivia!

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