We are honored to give a 2023 Youth Food Champion Award to Isha Kasai.
Isha Kasai is a 26 year old resident of Lewiston, and is the Youth Program Coordinator for the Somali Bantu Community Association, which operates a 104 acre farm in Wales secured in 2020 named Liberation Farms, providing access to land to grow food for over 200 intergenerational Somali-Bantu families. Farming and land-based practices are deeply rooted in Somali-Bantu culture and heritage, and they became harder to practice and teach to younger generations without access to land near where many of the community live in downtown Lewiston.
This summer, Isha worked with teen leaders and dozens of children to create different recipes on a weekly basis, which enabled them to grow their cooking skills and to try new foods. Since August, she has been facilitating the program Oh Yea! 4-H Grows True Leaders, in partnership with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension which helps youth learn about their local food system and support farm-to-table efforts. Looking to the Spring, Isha is now designing an opportunity that will connect youth with older farmers within the Somali Bantu community, which will help facilitate intergenerational teachings in cultural heritage and foodways.
Isha explains that “[f]ood access work is important to me as it addresses the fundamental human right to food which millions do not have access to globally. Initiatives like policies and local food programs play a pivotal role in enhancing access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate foods. These efforts are vital for communities to thrive and work towards eradicating food insecurity.”
Congratulations and thank you to Isha for all the work you do in our local food system!
ABOUT: Those honored with Youth Food Champion Awards are individual youth or youth groups from the greater Lewiston-Auburn area who strive to create a more vibrant and healthy food system from farm-to-fork. Those honored with awards ‘lead by example’ in one, or more, of the five principles of the LA Community Food Charter. Learn more about the other 2023 Food Charter Champion Award winners here.