For five weeks in the summer, a group of inner-city high schoolers in Baltimore farm, cook, and learn leadership skills, all thanks to Mission Thrive, an innovative program co-created by The Institute for Integrative Health. Mission Thrive Summer participants, many of whom who are paid for their work on Civic Works’ Real Food Farm, also get mindfulness training— a combination of yoga, breathing, and silent reflection — to help them manage stress and regulate their emotions. Through their hands-on experience on the farm and nutrition training, students learn the difference between real, whole foods and store-bought products.
The program culminates in a “family feast” night where teens cook a three-course meal for their families and explain the health benefits of the foods they prepared. They also put on a community health fair to share what they’ve learned over the summer. WellBe stopped by to see the students’ work and talk to Brandin Bowden, senior community programs manager at The Institute for Integrative Health.
Children in Baltimore suffer a higher rate of health issues than the national average and the life expectancy in the poorest neighborhoods is 66 years old— that’s similar to Pakistan. The city’s lack of employment opportunities, persistent poverty, unstable housing market, and crime increases stress and reduces health. Mission Thrive Summer was created to “empower youth, families, and communities to make lifestyle changes that will support their health and well-being” and is a partnership between The Institute for Integrative Health, Real Food Farm, and the Baltimore City Mayor’s Office of Employment Development’s YouthWorks.