Dig a hole, place the seeds, fill with soil.
Next comes the waiting.
You can give a seed everything it needs – sun, water, nutrients – but still have a question lingering in the back of your head: Will it ever grow?
Four years ago, Aaliyah Demry was a newly planted seed going into her first day at Appetite for Change, a community-based organization in North Minneapolis that uses food as a tool for building health, wealth and social change.
It was the summer before her freshman year of high school, and Demry was looking for a job to fill the hot, empty days. She applied to work at a cafe owned by Appetite for Change called Breaking Bread Cafe. Or so she thought.
“I went in for the interview, and they handed me a spoon to go make lemonade,” Demry said. “Their interview questions weren’t normal stuff.”
Demry was asked big-picture questions, like what changes she wanted to see in the community. Soon after, she was hired — not for the cafe, but for one of AFC’s seven gardens in North Minneapolis.
At the garden, student workers are taught basic gardening skills and how different plants affect their bodies, building on one of the main pillars of the nonprofit — educating youth on healthy, green eating.
A new revelation for Demry? She found she likes kale. Onions? Not so much.
“Kids my age don’t eat (unhealthy) because they want to; they do because it’s all they have,” Demry said.
In her eyes, unhealthy eating habits and lifestyles get passed down over generations. But at Appetite for Change, Demry is working to change this by using food to build relationships.
“We have so many problems in the world,” Demry said. “But we’re all connected because everybody gotta eat.”
And this connection is apparent in the tight community she finds at AFC, which she describes as “like family” and “more of a home.”
In this home the team is always busy, taking part in various events each day, like hosting community-cook events and tending to their gardens. Community-cook events, which occur every other week, are cookouts that are open to anyone and everyone. During the cookouts, attendees discuss changes for the community. When they’re not hosting community-cook events, they’re working in the garden and tending to plants.
Through all these events, Appetite for Change has served as more than a means of healthy eating and community in Demry’s life. It has been a vehicle for change and growth, leading to many opportunities for her along the way.
Listen and read Aaliyah’s story about the creation of “Grow Food”
For example, Demry has always had an interest in rap music.
Stemming from that interest, Demry was among a group of teens at AFC who created a rap song titled “Grow Food” that went viral. They have performed at venues all across the state and country, winning a grant for the organization, as well.
The video allowed Demry to express her sillier side. But in the bigger picture, AFC helped connect Demry to her future aspirations.
“When I had expressed to them my passion and what I wanted to do, they believed in my dream and helped me get to where I want to be,” Demry said.
One of the opportunities made possible through AFC came after Demry talked to Princess Titus, one of the co-founders of Appetite for Change, about her interest in journalism. Titus connected Demry to a mentor in the communications department of AFC.
From there, “I got to go down to the Twins stadium and meet with people who worked in the communications box and that are commentators … see how they work and spend the day with them,” Demry said.
Additionally, AFC was able to connect Demry to ThreeSixty Journalism, which she has been involved with for two years now. Demry has participated in many of the organization’s summer camps, as well as the school-year news team program.
It isn’t just her life that she’s seen changed by AFC. Demry has witnessed firsthand the ways AFC has changed the people around her, her friends and her community. Demry said the garden, as a safe space, has helped youth distance themselves from dangerous circumstances, such as gang affiliation.
She notes that many of her friends at AFC now aspire to be farmers and open businesses or restaurants.
“You never hear of a black kid that wants to be a farmer instead of being on the streets,” she said.
Now in her senior year at Irondale High School, Demry is grateful for everything she’s received from Appetite for Change — the opportunities, relationships and platform to create change.
And although she started as a “seed,” Demry has bloomed.
“When I first started, I didn’t expect to be there that long,” Demry said. “Food has connected me with so many things — to my career path and (to) the life I want to live.”