How One Youth Agriculture Program Is Solving Its Community's Expensive Egg Problem

"Young people's voices and lived experiences need to be at the center of the solutions."


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Eggs are currently having a moment. Including among the Gen Z set. 

The everyday kitchen staple has become increasingly expensive due to factors ranging from the bird flu to rising fuel costs. To keep us laughing instead of crying, social media resorted to egg memes, including people selling eggs as if it's a rare-impossible-to-get-ingredient and even warning of Easter's cancellation. But, it appears, rather than laugh for too long, some teenagers are buckling down to understand both how our food systems work and how to fix it.

Egg shortages indicate a greater fear of food inflation and a lack of widespread understanding of growing food. The Delaware-based high school William Penn is tackling both these issues by equipping the next generation with tools to farm and by selling off its bounty of eggs to the school's in-house nutritional program, its staff, and finally, with any leftovers, to locals for a steep discount at what they'd find at grocery stores ($5 for a dozen), according to Town Square Delaware. And it's proving that youth agriculture programs are essential for strengthening future local food systems and feeding communities. 

Farming started to sharply decline in the 1970s and has been slowly dwindling ever since. The USDA reports, "the number of U.S. farms has continued to decline, but much more slowly. In the most recent survey, there were 2.01 million U.S. farms in 2021, down from 2.20 million in 2007."

William Penn's program, Penn Farm, connects youth to agriculture principles, like raising chickens and using school-grown fruits and vegetables in their culinary program. Amid the egg fiasco, the Penn Farm students were already experts on how to raise chickens with care and harvest eggs to sell to their community. Jeffery Brennan, a Penn Farm student, tells Town Square Delaware, "Being able to go outside and work with the animals and work with my hands, which is my preferred way of learning, has been amazing."

The USDA reports approximately 34.3% of U.S. schools have edible gardens. In addition, there are also programs like 4-H, a national youth development program, which prioritizes agricultural lessons to prepare students to take on critical issues like raising chickens with care.

Mark Becker, a food systems specialist at 4-H, tells Food & Wine, "We know that those who are closest to the problem are also closest to the solution, meaning that young people's voices and lived experiences need to be at the center of the solutions that we are designing to address food system challenges. When adults partner with youth in meaningful ways and support their leadership, we believe that meaningful and positive changes in our food systems can take place." 

Still, while egg prices are slowly creeping back to an OK price, other foods are projected to continue to rise. But, Kelsey Nordyke, an agricultural science specialist at 4-H emphasizes, "Education of tomorrow's consumers (today's youth) will help people to better understand how events like the pandemic and avian flu can cause disruptions in the supply chain, impacting consumers and producers."

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