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Jessica’s Story: A Passion for Good, Fresh Food

August 1, 2012

This month we had the pleasure of talking to Jessica, an 18 year-old 11th Street community member with a major passion for food in all of its stages, from earth to table.

Jessica is a veteran member of the Teens 4 Good group that tends to 11th Street’s urban garden during the summertime, among other garden sites in the city. On weekday mornings during the past four years, Jessica has joined her peers to clear and plant new beds, harvest produce and visit local restaurants to persuade them to use the group’s fresh, local ingredients in their menus.

“It’s been really enjoyable,” Jessica said of her time spent in the program, “I get in the zone.” Jessica was introduced to the opportunity by 11th Street’s Health Educator and Outreach Coordinator, Jennifer Andia Warshaw, though the young woman’s passion for food, cooking and nutrition existed long before her involvement with Teens 4 Good. These four summers have increased Jessica’s knowledge about edible plants, methods of preparation, and provided her with business skills and a desire to be an entrepreneur. Her favorite ingredient that grows in the garden is swiss chard, which she sautés with olive oil, garlic, onions and her own special mixture of seasonings. She enjoys experimenting with flavors: “I like being surprised by which turn out well,” she said.

Since she was about 10 years-old, Jessica has wanted to open up her own small cafe or bakery in Philadelphia. She said, “Everyone falls in love with my oatmeal raisin cookies!” Jessica even had her own small cupcake business during high school; she sold her creations at Girard College for a dollar apiece to the other students, who raved about her baking talents. In September, Jessica will be mastering her baking skills at the Community College of Philadelphia where she will be studying Culinary Arts.