Members of Teens for Food Justice, a youth-led movement to end food insecurity through high-capacity, school-based hydroponic farming, were joined by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers on the launch of the organization’s first hydroponic farm at the Far Rockaway Educational Complex on April 7.
The Far Rockaway Educational Complex farm, located at 821 Beach 25th St., will share space with a school-based culinary program featuring a complete state-of-the-art kitchen. This co-location will allow for multiple integrations of the campus’s planned career and technical education tracks in urban agriculture and culinary arts.
The co-located schools in Far Rockaway include Queens High School for Information, Research, and Technology, the Academy of Medical Technology, Knowledge and Power Prep Academy and Frederick Douglass VI High School. The principal of each school attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony along with Dr. Mauri De Govia, executive superintendent of Queens South at NYC Department of Education; Narine Bharat, director of NYC DOE; and Tammy Willis of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service New York.
“We are so proud of the work we do and thrilled that the initiative has been so well received that we can’t wait to expand to three more schools in the Far Rockaway Peninsula thanks to the USDA’s support,” said Gabrielle Mosquere, deputy director of TFFJ. “This work will take place over the next three years on the Scholars’ Academy, M.S. 53 Brian Piccolo and P.S. 183 Richard R. Green campuses.”
Hydroponics is a type of horticulture and a subset of hydroculture which involves growing plants, usually crops, without soil. Hydroponic flowers, herbs and vegetables are planted and supplied with nutrient-rich solutions, oxygen and water.
The opening of TFFJ’s newest farm marks the first of many promising outcomes in the Rockaway peninsula. It is a step toward a comprehensive effort to minimize food insecurity and its direct, negative impacts on health in the area. It’s also the start of the transformation of young people’s relationship with the foods they eat while developing the science and technology skills needed in a new green economy.
Lastly, the program is part of an expansion plan of hydroponic farms in three new schools in Far Rockaway in the upcoming three years.
By the end of 2024, the TFFJ program throughout the Rockaway peninsula will:
- Provide STEM education and leadership development to more than 4,000 students.
- Develop career paths and opportunities for students in school-based hydroponic farms, urban agriculture and advocacy.
- Produce 20,000 pounds of fresh produce for distribution through school lunches and within the community.
- Train approximately 20 teachers to use hydroponic farms as hands-on labs for STEM and agriculture studies.
“To have food justice front and center, not only in this space but across the peninsula, is a team effort to address systemic issues around food insecurity and economic opportunity that this community has faced for a long time,” Richards said. “This is about giving our young people the opportunity to cultivate their knowledge of this industry and send food home.”
Brooks-Powers applauded Teens for Food Justice and the Far Rockaway Educational Campus for providing innovative learning opportunities for students to immerse themselves in the rich biodiversity of Jamaica Bay and Rockaway Beach.
“We must foster environmental stewardship, STEAM education and healthy eating habits in our young people. I look forward to working with TFFJ, our valuable community partner, to expand nutritious food options, get our kids excited about hydroponics, and work towards improving health outcomes in Rockaway,” Brooks-Powers said.