When Bella Saunders first started her junior year in high school, she didn’t realize there were urban areas where it was difficult to buy afforable, nutritious food, commonly known as a feed desert.

It wasn’t until she became a Social Justice Teen Fellow, a joint program between the Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC) and the Elijah Cummings Youth Program (ECYP), that she became more versed on the topic and determined to showcase to others how difficult it is for many city residents to eat well.

This March, Bella, a Jewish student at Atholton High School, is working with a small group of predominantly African-American and Jewish teens to develop a “food desert” simulation for an upcoming Teen Summit for the Fellowship program. They plan to encourage participants to make a food list of what their families commonly purchase; then take these lists to areas throughout the room. Each area will represent foods available at corner stores, mini-marts and liquor stores and will help the participants understand the far-reaching effects of food injustice.

The Teen Summit, keynoted by Congressman Elijah Cummings (D), is the capstone to a nine-month program that brings together 26 Jewish and African-American high school students to build greater understanding across racial and religious backgrounds. Through programming and dialogue, the hope is that it will better prepare them to talk about issues of racism, anti-Semitism and social justice with their peers.

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The Associated Contributors are writers from The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.