This college student started a nonprofit that aims to empower youth to achieve sustainability and a healthy understanding of nutrition through urban gardening

Environmental activist and Stanford University student Megan Chen is growing a greener and more sustainable world through her nonprofit, The Urban Garden Initiative (@theurbangardeninitiative). The organization operates in over 30 states and 10 different countries, and through its gardening-based program, aims to inspire and empower youth to achieve urban sustainability

Megan was inspired by her grandparents’ garden growing up, and started a garden of her own when she was just 10 years old. “We didn’t have a lot of outdoor space per se to grow the type of garden I wanted,” she explains. “But as we got a little bit more space I was able to take a lot of the different skills that I learned from when I first started gardening when I was younger into building a garden plot of my own, and started my garden from there.”

When she was a little bit older, Megan learned about food insecurity and food deserts, which are areas that have very limited access to healthy and nutritious foods like fresh produce. Megan herself grew up outside one of the largest food deserts in Delaware. All this inspired her to form The Urban Garden Initiative. 

A major tenet of The Urban Garden Initiative is youth education. “How our program works is that we have these gardens that we’re building, but we also have education programs that are for youth and by youth,” shares Megan. “We’ll go into a lot of these different schools, we’ll be teaching them about how to start these different gardens, the different relationships between food and climate, and then how a lot of these other things are related to many other environmental concerns happening today, and what can young people, most importantly, do about them.”
Megan wants to focus on educating young people because she feels they’ve been left out of conversations on issues surrounding environmental sustainability. When visiting schools with The Urban Garden Initiative, she noticed firsthand how few opportunities were available to students to get involved, so she hopes to create a domino effect by getting young people who are passionate about these issues to inspire their peers. She explains, “I really want to help bridge this gap by getting young people who are really passionate about this, to get them involved and help grow the excitement in other young people to hopefully build this movement of young people that are really passionate and care a lot about these different problems.”

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