LEWISTON — St. Mary’s Lots to Gardens has the privilege of co-hosting the 11th Annual Rooted in Community National Summer Conference with other food justice organizations, Cultivating Community in Portland and the Food Project of Boston.

The purpose of the conference is to bring together youth and adults involved in the food justice movement from around the country. This year, more than 100 participants will take part in youth-led educational workshops, group meals made with locally grown foods prepared by Local Sprouts Cooperative of Portland and conference participants, and gardening in Portland, Lewiston and Lincoln, Mass.

Conference participants will be in Lewiston this Thursday, July 30, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.. While here, they will work alongside the urban agriculture and youth empowerment program, Lots to Gardens. Youth will break off into groups led by Lots to Gardens staff and interns and work at one of the 15 different urban garden sites the program helps maintain around the city.
Conference participants will then gather at the St. Mary’s Nutrition Center for a healthy, homegrown meal made with vegetables provided by Lots to Gardens and other local farms and prepared that morning by conference participants.

Rahma Odawa, a Youth Intern working with Lots to Gardens, said “I’m really excited about Rooted in Community because youth from all over the country are coming together to share skills and work together to figure out how to make their communities better places.”

Youth will engage in service projects around Lewiston, including donating to local service agencies a portion of the 100 bikes they will use to travel around Lewiston throughout the conference. Bicycles for the conference were donated by community members, Roy’s Bicycle Shop and the Lewiston Police Department and renovated by Lots to Gardens and the community bicycle program Spoke Folks.

The Rooted in Community National Network is a grassroots organization that empowers young people to take leadership in their own communities. The RIC National Network is a diverse movement of youth and adults working together and committed to fostering healthy communities and food justice through urban and rural agriculture, community gardening, food security and related environmental justice work.

Lots to Gardens is a program of St. Mary’s Health System and uses sustainable urban gardens to create access to fresh food and to empower youth and build community in Lewiston. Founded in 1999, Lots to Gardens now has 15 gardens located throughout Lewiston’s diverse urban neighborhoods.

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