Youth 3rd Space :: 5/6/2016

In 3rd Space, youth are expanding their knowledge on food justice in many ways. They explored ancestral food knowledge and food sovereignty, identified how certain herbs can benefit our bodies, and practiced self-care techniques (like yoga!).


Chris, Emely, and Jason

I interviewed:

  • Emely Ortega who is 16 years old and a junior at Academy of Environmental & Social Policy (ESP) High School in Lincoln Heights. She joined the program because she likes growing vegetables and getting her hands dirty in the soil.



  • Maria Juan-Gomez who is 17 years old and attends Central High School. She lives in South Central and as she states, she joined the program because “I wanted to learn more about health and learn things I didn’t know.”
  • Jason R., a 17 year old junior at Santee Education Complex. He lives in Compton and said someone spoke to his class about the program and was curious and wanted to know what it was about so he joined.
  • Chris Lopez who is 17 years old and attends Central High School. He lives in El Sereno in between Lincoln Heights and Alhambra and said “my girlfriend Maria told me about the program and I thought about it and I decided to join because I figured it would help me.”


Q: Thinking back to day where you learned about food sovereignty, what surprised you and why?

“For me, it was a new things. People, work not even for minimum wage to just get covered in pesticides and all those chemicals and pick up bananas that are only two thirds edible. Then after that they become sterile from the chemicals getting into their bodies and to me, the was surprising because I eat bananas and to find out that these people work this hard for not even $5 and no benefits.” – Jason

“I was working with the banana one and what surprised was that the workers are treated horribly The employers didn’t care about the pesticides or how they were going to affect the workers. They would pick the bananas and breathe in these chemicals, but they would not get them suits or anything to help their health. I remember me and my group were watching this video and this woman had a swollen leg and they said it was no excuse to not work. It made me sad and angry because I don’t like it when people are treated like that.” – Emely

Q: Do you think there needs to be a change? If so, what would that change look like?


“The right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agricultural systems. It puts the aspirationgs and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems rather than the demands of matters and corporations.” – Declaration by Ny Leni

The youth have very strong opinions on the changes that need to be made. The conditions that these people are working in are inhumane and the youth unanimously agreed that there needs to be laws put in place to make sure that these people are not forced to work in such harsh conditions.

“I think that if you are going to have someone working for you them the working conditions should be the same as all other companies. If someone is working really hard then they should get some vacation time and if they are sick then they should be able to take sick days. I think this would make people want to do this work and not just working there because they really need the money.” – Chris

“I think that the people that own those places shouldn’t be allowed to put the chemicals in it because it isn’t natural and it hurts other people, not them.” – Maria

“People should be let known that there are these people picking all of these bananas and products that they put on their table and they don’t even know where it comes from and they don’t appreciate that these workers are over here exhausting themselves for not even a good amount of money just to try and provide for themselves and others. And I think people should be aware of the struggles of these workers.” – Jason

“We need to change more than just this. We need to change a lot, like the use of cars. We are using this oil and that damages our planet and when we damage our planet, we damage our food source. For the fields in particular, I feel like they should just stop working. Because if one person decides to stand up then they will just replace them, but if they make a picket line they can show them ‘You can’t treat us like this, we deserve better, we are human too.’” – Emely

ANCESTRAL KNOWLEDGE & HEALING: Medicine, Herbs, and More 

Learning about the systemic violence in our society takes a toll on our bodies, spirits, and relationship with self and others. The goal of this session was to share, learn, and practice ways of self care since many of our sessions have been understanding systemic violence. We explored herbs help us relax and support our wellbeing.

  • Chamomile – soothing nerve tonic that can help with stress, anxiety, and sleep. It helps relieve stress that affects digestion and mental and physical tension and irritability. It also helps relax mind and body in preparation for sleep and is helpful for digestion, bowel and bladder problems. On top of these, it is good when feeling vulnerable in giving feeling of being held.
  • Rose – for stress, depression, PMS, nervousness, heartache/heart break, and opening up one’s heart. It’s helpful in intention to bring in sweetness.
  • Lavender- for nervous stress. It can bring calmness and inner strength. It is soothing and strengthening to the nervous system. It can be helpful for trying to sleep. It is also a good antibacterial & anti-fungal.
  • Hibiscus- lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. It’s good for the heart and medicinal for heart disease and is good liver and kidney tonic. It is is high in antioxidants and is anti-Inflammatory & anti-­fungal, anti-biotic. It also is supportive in maintaining health weight, lessen water weight.
  • Lemon Balm- excellent nerve tonic that helps with stress and anxiety. It can help to lift mood and spirit. It’s good for nervous tension, melancholy, and postpartum blues and is helpful when stress affect your stomach and digestion. It can be useful for ADD and ADHD and is a good sleep aid when dealing with insomnia. And one perk is that it is safe for babies to consume.

After learning about the different herbs, each youth had the chance to create their own herb mix to make tea(s) for themselves and loved ones back home. The “Love Herb,” rose, was the most popular herb of the day!

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A few days later, the youth shared their experience with the herbs:

“I took lavender and rose. The lavender did help, because it helped me go to sleep and that is much better than taking pills.” – Maria

“I took some rose and a bit of lavender and I enjoyed it a lot. I mixed to two together and really liked the flavor and knew it was helping because it made me sleepy.” – Chris

“I took home the rose and lavender and it is supposed to help with your menstrual cycle. It just so happened that I got ‘it’ that day and the tea really helped me a lot. I also gave it to my sister without telling her what it was and before she drank it, she was complaining about her cramps, and after she drank it, she said she felt a lot better.” – Emely

In conclusion, Roots For Peace’s 3rd Space program is a great space for youth to learn about systemic violence within our food system and identify solutions already possible. The program also encourages and supports youth to lead in making these solutions an option in their lives (as you’ll see in the next blog piece). As Chris shares:

 “I think being in this program opened my eyes to the world. Because of this, I talk a little more now, I’m not as nervous to talk to somebody now because it’s a friendly environment here and I didn’t really know a lot of people here before.”


Written by: Alexandra Downey

Edited by: Eli Tizcareño

Sources: One pager about herbs created by Jas Wade.