Denzel Thompson: 2013 Honoree
Growing up in a rough neighborhood in North Philadelphia with limited nutritious foods available, 18-year-old Denzel Thompson battled obesity his entire life. The most accessible food stores in Thompson's community are fast food restaurants and convenience stores, contributing to the high childhood obesity rate in the area. As his body image issues and low self-esteem peaked in the eighth grade, Thompson dropped out of school and became severely depressed. Over time, he slowly pulled himself together by going back to school. On a volunteer trip to New Orleans to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, Thompson worked with a group of volunteers to build greenhouses and transform vacant lands into urban gardens. Upon returning home, he decided to make a change in his own community with the goal of putting a stop to the high obesity rate.
Thompson and six other teens created Philadelphia Urban Creators (PUC), a youth led organization that grows sustainable healthy food from the ground up. After going door-to-door and hosting neighborhood block parties to help raise money, he then convinced the Village of Arts and Humanities to donate a three-acre lot of land to PUC for farming. Thompson organized homegrown affordable farmers markets for the neighborhood, while also selling produce to restaurants and grocery stores to collect money to buy more supplies and seeds. He soon became a mentor, conducting free educational training and hands-on gardening workshops for the community.
In the past four years since he started PUC, Thompson has lost over 150 pounds by eating whatever he grows. He continues to stay actively involved in PUC and plans to implement an organic farming curriculum for local schools. Denzel plans to finish high school next year and attend Temple University to study agriculture and liberal arts.
To learn more about Denzel, click here to watch his honoree video!