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17-year-old high school junior Aaliyah lives in North Minneapolis. She is involved with Appetite for Change, a nonprofit that aims to use food as a tool to build health, wealth, and social change. Appetite for Change is part of the food systems program known as Full Lives launched by Greater Twin Cities United Way through a gift from the General Mills Foundation. They facilitate urban farming and operate a café that serves healthy food- and as employment training- for youth in the community.

The program has had a big impact on Aaliyah’s life- she got connected with Appetite for Change when she applied for a job at the café. “It was not your typical interview- it was very different. I could tell they really cared,” she said. “I got hired, and I learned working for Appetite for Change isn’t just a job- it’s setting you up for real life.”

Aaliyah said she had no previous gardening experience (“I didn’t know much, other than that plants needed water!”) but learned to sow, weed, and harvest at the organization’s seven urban gardens located throughout North Minneapolis. Appetite for Change also runs its own Farmers’ Market, where she was able to manage money, have conversations with new people, and lead a team.

After working in various roles at Appetite for Change, Aaliyah now serves as a youth mentor to other teens in the program. She also helps run the organization’s social media channels and enjoys serving as their photographer. “Appetite has been a great experience for me,” Aaliyah said. “In school we aren’t taught how to grow or cook food and there aren’t a lot of resources in North Minneapolis. People of color are suffering when it comes to accessing healthy food and we need to change that.”

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