(Photo by Allison Garcia Photography)

SANTA CRUZ — Food, What?! held its annual Benefit Dinner on Sept. 17 at Santa Cruz Mission State Park.

More than 300 people from across Santa Cruz County attended the event. Dinner was made with fresh local organic produce youth in Food, What?! had been growing all season and from local farms like Live Earth Farm.

Youth cooked with local chefs for three days to prepare all of the different dishes — they worked with Mario Ballesteros from Ballesteros Catering in Watsonville, and Cesario Ruiz of My Mom’s Mole (and who manages the Kitchen Incubator Project in Watsonville) as well as notable chefs from Santa Cruz.

The highlight of the night was when a number of Food, What?! youth stepped up to the mic to tell their stories of transformation. Each of the youth speakers chose to use the benefit space of 300 adults to tell of the struggles and challenges they’ve faced but their focus was on who they are now and what they’re most proud of for themselves. 

They spoke to the role Food, What?! has played in their personal and professional growth and development.

Food, What?! is a nonprofit organization using food, through sustainable agriculture and health, as the vehicle for growing strong, healthy, and resilient teens. The organization partners with local youth to grow, cook, eat and distribute healthy, sustainably raised food at their farm sites in Watsonville and Santa Cruz.

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