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Mt. Eden Youth Celebrate the “Fruits of Our Labor” Food Justice Mural in the Bronx

High school student Daniel Datiz, left, discusses the food justice mural at CMSP 327 with his classmate, Rodney Nelson.

Ever since he was young, Daniel Datiz dreamed about changing his community for the better. The unveiling of a public mural at Mt. Eden's Comprehensive Model School Project 327 on May 16 was proof that he can do it.

The mural, called “Fruits of Our Labor,” illustrates the role that food workers play in cultivating and preparing healthy food for the community of the South Bronx.  Datiz said that it has inspired him to advocate for food justice in his South Bronx community when he becomes an adult.

"The Bronx has high rates of diabetes and obesity," said Datiz, 16. "I think we need to change. I hope to come back here to change the community and create healthy living for everyone around here."

Datiz was just one of dozens of Mt. Eden youth who joined with New Settlement Apartments, LISC NYC, Groundswell and local elected officials to cheer the unveiling of the public mural.

The project was part of LISC NYC's Communities for Healthy Food program, funded through generous support from the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, which supports healthy food access in four high-need communities in New York City. This year, the Illumination Fund awarded LISC NYC a $644,000 grant to expand Communities for Healthy Food in 2016 and 2017 to two additional high-need neighborhoods in partnership with community development corporations (CDCs): Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx and Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation (OBCDC) in the Rockaways.

Through the Illumination Fund’s prior support, Communities for Healthy Food has four existing CDC partners, including Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation in Cypress Hills/East New York, New Settlement Apartments in Mt. Eden, Northeast Brooklyn Housing Development Corporation in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and West Harlem Group Assistance in West Harlem.

"These murals are mind-blowing," said Rick Luftglass, the executive director of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund. "They're about pride, they're about history, they're about justice and they really speak to the extraordinary commitment by the youth in this community."

Other partners agreed. "This is a project that represents important partnerships and collaborations that involve young people from CMSP 327," said Jack Doyle, the executive director of New Settlement Apartments.

The high school students worked for two months to research, design and create the 10-foot high mural, under the guidance of Groundswell artists Jose de Jesus Rodriguez and Paula Frisch. This included discussing food justice with a presenter from the Food Chain Workers Alliance and investigating food options in their neighborhood.

"We applaud this new public art that illustrates the issues of food justice and the important role of food workers, who ensure that healthy food gets to where it needs to go," said Sam Marks, LISC NYC's executive director. "So many folks came together to give us something to celebrate here today."

The celebration included remarks from a representative of New York State Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner, a ribbon cutting to officially welcome the mural to the community, a step show performance from the Creative Leaders Afterschool Program, and a healthy cooking demonstration led by students from an afterschool culinary and nutrition education program implemented by FamilyCook Productions at New Settlement through Communities for Healthy Food.

“By illustrating the heart and labor of food production, ‘The Fruits of Our Labor’ honors food workers with its dynamic and empowering design,” said Patrick Dougher, Groundswell’s Program Director. "The mural unites us by acknowledging the power, resistance, and humanity of workers at every step of food production.”

May 16th Mural Unveiling in the South Bronx