Courtesy of Dedeepya Guthikonda
Dig a hole, place the seeds, fill with soil.
Next, comes the waiting.
Yet, despite giving a seed everything it needs—sun, water, nutrients— you’re often still left to wonder whether it will truly 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 empty, hot days. She applied to work at Breaking Bread Café: a café owned by Appetite For Change. 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 café, but for one of AFC’s seven gardens in North Minneapolis.
At the garden, student workers are taught basic gardening skills and the effects different kinds of plants have on 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. At Appetite For Change, Demry is working to change this, 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 “family” and “more of a home.”
In this home, the team is always busy, taking part in and hosting various events each day, consisting of community-cook events and tending to their garden. Community-cook events, which occur every other week, are cook-outs that are open to anyone and everyone, where changes for the community are discussed. Otherwise, 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.
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, accumulating more than 500,000 views. 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 basically believed in my dream and helped me get to where I want to be,” Demry said.
One of these experiences came after Demry talked to Princess Titus, known in the community as “Mrs. Princess,” one of the cofounders of Appetite For Change, about her interest in journalism. She 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 about an experience that proved to be valuable for her, building on her interest of one day working in the journalism field.
Additionally, AFC was able to connect Demry to ThreeSixty journalism, a nonprofit organization that leads journalism programs for youth, which she has been involved with for two years now. Demry has participated in many of the organizations’ summer camps, as well as the school-year news team program.
Only, it isn’t just her life 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 youths 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 of high school, Demry is grateful for everything she’s received from Appetite For Change—the opportunities, relationships, and platform to create change.
“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 the life I want to live.”
Although she started as a “seed,” Demry has bloomed.