2015 summer crew worker Mwembo, a sixteen year old whose family came to Salt Lake as refugees, really struggled at first to take his job at Utah Community Action’s Real Food Rising seriously. He was often late, sometimes goofing off as peers in his crew were working hard in the hot summer sun. He struggled to listen and understand instructions and expectations. He earned a lot of violations in the shared standards everyone had agreed to as part of the job and was close to getting fired a few times throughout the summer.

However, with a lot of guidance, individual instruction, and consistent feedback from his crew leader and site supervisor, as well as the encouragement from peers in his crew, he was able to work through his challenges and cancel out some of his violations. While the Real Food Rising supervisory staff were fully rooting for Mwembo, they were concerned he wasn’t willing to do what he needed to make it through the summer. However, to the delight of his fellow crew workers and his employers, Mwembo successfully turned himself around and completed the entire seven week program. He became a hard-working and dedicated crew member who showed up to work on time and prepared.

Near the end of the summer program, Real Food Rising hosts a potluck dinner for crew workers and their families called “Family Feast.” Mwembo was very excited to talk about his experiences with his mom and siblings; he showed them around the farm and proudly participated in a silly skit with his fellow crew members. Of the experience, he said, “I learned a lot from Real Food Rising. It taught me to be on time and to be serious sometimes, and to get ready for a real job in a real world.” It was thrilling to watch a defiant teenager transform into a dedicated young adult in just seven weeks.

At the Heart of Our Community are people like Mwembo and organizations like Real Food Rising. In 2015, Utah Community Action acquired the Real Food Rising urban farm and youth development program from Utahns Against Hunger. Real Food Rising provides fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables to the UCA Central Kitchen, our Community Food and Resource Centers (Food Pantries), and farm stands strategically placed in designated food deserts. Real Food Rising is staffed in part by youth ages 14 to 17 who work to cultivate, maintain and harvest crops during the growing season. They learn transferrable job skills and develop their leadership potential. Click here for more details.

Click here to sign up for email updates and follow the Heart of Our Community blog. Throughout August we will be showcasing inspiring client success stories from Utah Community Action Program, including Early Head Start/Head Start, Nutrition, Adult Education, Weatherization, HEAT, and Case Management and Housing.

It’s what makes our community great.

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