4-H Tech Changemakers Address a Growing Need

National 4-H Council and Microsoft are working together through the 4-H Tech Changemakers program to empower teens to create opportunities for people to participate in today’s increasingly digital world in unique ways. Tech Changemakers began with 43 teen leaders from 12 communities who invested over 1,600 hours in innovative community projects and digital skills training.

Six of those teen leaders, from Washington Academy, are working to address food insecurity. They are partnering with University of Maine Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteers and Healthy Acadia to re-establish a 3,000 sq.ft. garden at the school. The vegetables they grow are currently being donated to the Machias Food Pantry. Since June, they have harvested almost 700 pounds of fresh produce. From kale, swiss chard and zucchini to tomatoes, onions and carrots the youth are always amazed to see how much they are able to harvest each week. One of their most popular items are the bags of fresh salad blend. Once they harvest a variety of leafy, fresh greens, they wash, spin, weigh, package, and tag the blend. Adding bits of edible flowers, the bags look like something you might find at a farmers’ market. Students from Brian Campbell’s apprenticeship class at the school built raised beds for the garden and will tackle a greenhouse structure this fall so the growing season can be extended.  

“I love being part of this project because I definitely feel like I’m helping,” said Paige Bell, a junior at Washington Academy. “We’re creating something that will hopefully encourage other people to do the get involved and make a difference.”

In addition, the youth are using technology to help, educate people and raise awareness, highlight local farms and food security efforts, and explore how to get more young people to volunteer. Visit their web page at www.communityfeast.org or follow their story on Instagram #communityfeast4h.

Interested in learning more about the project and how you can help? Contact Jen Lobley, Extension Educator at 255-3345 or Jennifer.lobley@maine.edu.

4-H Tech Changemakers get ready to share their produce with clients at the Machias Food Pantry.
4-H Tech Changemaker Hudson Morris carries a load of freshly harvested carrots from the garden.

About University of Maine Cooperative Extension: As a trusted resource for over 100 years, University of Maine Cooperative Extension has supported UMaine’s land and sea grant public education role by conducting community-driven, research-based programs in every Maine county. UMaine Extension helps support, sustain and grow the food-based economy. It is the only entity in our state that touches every aspect of the Maine Food System, where policy, research, production, processing, commerce, nutrition, and food security and safety are integral and interrelated. UMaine Extension also conducts the most successful out-of-school youth educational program in Maine through 4-H.