Kebreeya Lewis was a high school freshman when she first got involved with Students Working for an Agricultural Revolutionary Movement (SWARM), the youth food activism group supported by CEFS.  The Goldsboro teen says things “got serious” when she started connecting her family’s health problems – obesity, diabetes, and asthma – with food and lifestyle choices.

Kebreeya was determined to get healthier and help her family break the diet and disease cycle she saw spanning multiple generations.  She deepened her involvement with SWARM, working with other young people to plant community gardens and learn about healthy food choices.  She was trained in youth activism and how to advocate for what she believed in.  She looked around at her food choices, especially her school’s lunch options (mostly pizza and french fries), and decided to take action.

The new HBO special, Weight of the Nation for Kids: Kebreeya’s Salad Days, chronicles Kebreeya’s successful campaign to establish a salad bar in her high school cafeteria.  Despite initially being turned down by the county school nutritionist, Kebreeya persisted.  She created a petition that was eventually signed by over 200 people, and brought her case to the Goldsboro City Council, which enthusiastically backed the effort and wrote her a letter of support.

She had guidance from Shorlette Ammons, NC A&T State University’s Community Food Systems Outreach Coordinator, based at CEFS.  Says Shorlette, “Kebreeya’s leadership and bravery in sharing her story was key to this campaign.  Her work continues to inspire our current crew of SWARMers who are dedicated to building on Kebreeya’s work in Goldsboro to ensure that all people have access to good, affordable, healthy food. ”

Eventually, the county nutritionist was convinced.  The salad bar was installed and students’ eating choices expanded to include fresh lettuces, tomatoes, carrots, and other vegetables.  Says Kebreeya, “Patience was key….to keep going, keep doing it even when people told me ‘no’.  I didn’t give up – I came back with more research, more evidence, more proof”.

Kebreeya has since graduated from high school, and from SWARM, and is now a student at NC Central University in Durham.  She says that she is planning “lots of things” for her future, and is the founder and president of a new campus organization called BOOM (Building Our Own Movement).   The group will focus on healthy food and gardening and will offer workshops, community service opportunities, educational field trips, and more.  Congratulations to Kebreeya and SWARM for their great work!!!

Watch the inspiring HBO documentary about Kebreeya’s successful salad bar campaign here.

From the June 2013 E-Newsletter