2013 HALO Honoree: Denzel Thompson
Meet Denzel Austin Thompson: The co-founder of Philadelphia Urban Creators (PUC), a youth-led organization that grows sustainable and healthy food in urban gardens. Growing up in North Philadelphia where a childhood obesity epidemic plagued the well-being of his community, Denzel was inspired to make a grassroots change (no pun intended!).
After a service trip to New Orleans in which Denzel helped build greenhouses and transform vacant lands into urban gardens, he decided to bring organic farming back to his own neighborhood. Four years later, the Philadelphia Urban Creators and its loyal volunteers successfully cultivate sustainable gardens rife with fresh, healthy produce! We caught up with Denzel to learn more about his organization and hear about his giveback experience with Queen Latifah!
From seed to plant, PUC's sustainable gardens grow a large variety of produce, including veggies, fruit, and micro greens (think: SUPER healthy stuff like wheatgrass). When we asked Denzel to pick a favorite, however, he was quick to single out a tapered fruit called Tabasco peppers. (If you've ever heard of Tabasco Sauce, you'll know that the peppers can be pretty hot. But Denzel insists that he loves to eat of the vine!)
Much of the food that PUC grows is sold in local farmers markets or distributed to local restaurants. PUC either funds that money directly back into the community, or uses it to support the project itself. Interesting enough, Denzel noted that when PUC was is its early stages, community outreach was one of his biggest challenges. With hard work and persistence, however, members of the community began to grasp the concept and benefits of urban gardens, and Denzel proved that his was a cause worth supporting.
When we asked Denzel about his giveback experience with Queen Latfiah, he said he was completely surprised. "Everyone tricked me that day," he said. "It was really great and inspiring. [The experience] made me want to push myself harder and have faith in what I'm doing."
Finally, asked Denzel to share a few important tips for anyone who might want to start their own garden! Here's what we gathered:
1. Develop a core group of dedicated people with diverse skills and ideas.
2. Determine your role. For example, if you enjoy planting and growing, you might be the urban farmer!
3. Choose an area for your garden. It can either be a backyard or a plot of land. If there is an area that might need immediate assistance, such as a food desert, that's the best place to start!
4. Canvas. It's important to reach out to your neighborhood and community for support before you begin any physical planting. The more people who know about your project, the better!
There you have it, TeenNick fans! Check back here all week to learn more about our amazing honorees and how they're changing the world. And don't miss the 2013 HALO Awards on Sunday, November 17th at 8PM ET!