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Meet the Jewish Teen Who’s Starting a Gardening Revolution in Her Town

sophie

The Challenge: Over 15 million children in the United States aren’t sure where their next healthy meal will come from. At the same time, childhood obesity is still hovering at around 17%.

The Solution: Go Healthy St. Louis.

The Teen Hero Who’s Making This World A Better Place: Sophie Bernstein, who grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and always wanted a vegetable garden. For her bat mitzvah project, Sophie planted a garden big enough to help supply the local food banks. That’s when she saw first-hand how much her fresh fruits and vegetables could make a difference. She was sad to realize that a lot of people getting food donations were often getting unhealthy snacks. Sophie started rallying volunteers in her community and local organizations to donate gardening tools and seedlings. She started planting vegetable gardens at low-income preschools, so she could address healthy eating habits and appreciation for the earth with young children.

READ: Meet the Jewish Teen Who’s Breaking Down all the Barrier for Kids with Special Needs

Sophie has engaged more than 1,200 young learners from synagogues, churches, and schools at her monthly youth workshops. She has also drawn in over 750 teen volunteers to plant and harvest. Go Healthy St. Louis has its signature gardening tool kit, newsletter, and workshop materials thanks to Sophie, and she’s planning on taking this model to the national level.

tikkun olam

Sophie believes that everyone can feed themselves—and each other—healthfully. She is so grateful to the Helen Diller Family Foundation for helping her make Go Healthy St. Louis even bigger thanks to her Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award.

We caught up with Sophie in between classes to ask a few questions about what it took to get here.

What’s your favorite food?

Smoothies.

Your favorite book?

The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls.

Your favorite thing to do with a free afternoon?

Hang out with friends.

What’s the hardest part about cultivating a vegetable garden?

The squirrels and rabbits eating the produce.

The most rewarding part?

Growing produce in my own backyard to donate to food banks.

How do you recruit your teen volunteers?

I invite my friends and I spread the word with social media.

READ: Meet the Jewish Teen Who’s Ensuring Every Kid in Her City Has a Physical Education

Can you describe your youth workshops?

I focus on engaging preschool children interested in nutrition and gardening.

Are there any food fads, ads, or myths that bother you?

No, not really. I do believe everything in moderation and it’s important to eat fresh vegetables and fruits.

What is your high school like and what are you studying now?

I attend a small public high school in St. Louis, MO. I am a sophomore and I’m taking the typical load.

Who’s your biggest hero and why?

My dad for serving in the United States Navy.

What’s next for the Go Healthy St. Louis campaign?

We hope to grow gardens at every preschool and elementary school in the St. Louis region.

How about you? After high school, any plans?

No plans, but I do know that I want to work in a career that helps others.

Anything else you’d like to say about Go Healthy St. Louis or your Diller Teen Tikkun Olam award?

It was truly an honor to receive the award. Repairing the world is our duty. Everyone can make a difference, even a child.

This post is sponsored by the Helen Diller Family Foundation. To learn more about the foundation’s $36,000 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, visit www.dillerteenawards.org

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