Youth Food Educators Program
Launched in 2015, the Youth Food Educators (YOFE) program engages youth in reducing the demand for unhealthy food in their communities. The program is aimed to train young people ages 13-18 to develop and deliver countermarketing campaigns against unhealthy foods to their peers, families, and neighbors in their community. YOFE aims to prepare young people to become health leaders, skilled at using media, culture, and the arts to advocate for healthier food environments.
The program recognizes the importance of the “youth voice” and youth being valuable communicators who can generate positive social change and support the healthy food movement. YOFE participants serve as community-based educators holding workshops and presentations that highlight and counteract the advertising strategies big food companies (e.g. Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Frito Lay, and McDonalds) use to make unhealthy foods appealing.
YOFE program aims to engage youth from underserved communities in food justice and food advocacy work through countermarketing, which in turn will reduce the demand for unhealthy foods in low-income areas. The program has 4 main goals:
Prepare youth to serve as advocates in their communities who can mobilize support for opposing the marketing of unhealthy food.
Assist youth in developing community campaigns to discourage consumption of foods high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and salt and to advocate for policies that restrict such marketing.
Train youth to use social media to advocate for healthier patterns of consumption in low-income communities and to counteract food advertising that promotes increased chronic disease risk.
Develop a model for engaging African-American and Latino youth in countermarketing of unhealthy food that can be replicated in other NYC neighborhoods and US cities.
The CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute is presently focused on expanding the reach of the program, and rather than offer the program directly, we train other organizations on the implementation of the program, and have created resources that provide guidance on program implementation. Click here to view the YOFE Toolkit, which contains the program’s curriculum and more information about the program. Our hope is that this toolkit will make it easier for other groups to develop their own countermarketing initiatives, building on what the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute has done.