Essex County Schools of Technology’s (ECST) partnership with Urban Agriculture Cooperative offers students the opportunity to make and sell value-added products in their weekly food boxes. The real-world learning experience helps students in Culinary Arts, Graphic Arts & Design and Business programs learn how to operate a small business and generate income based on their products. These students also get the added benefit of seeing how their work impacts others by offering some food insecure communities healthy and nutritious options.
ECST recently named Urban Agriculture Cooperative as its 2023 Business Partner of the Year in appreciation of a partnership that extends to so many ECST students and imparts lessons that will last them a lifetime.
“We are grateful to our partners at the Urban Agriculture Cooperative for providing our students with real-world opportunities to learn and earn through our school-based enterprise,” said Dr. Cathleen DelaPaz, director of Career and Technical Education and Academies. “Not only do our students learn how to make value-added products for profit, but they also learn how to positively impact their community by being part of the local food system. We are particularly grateful to our partner, Emilio Panasci, for his commitment to providing our students with authentic work-based learning experiences that positively impact our community.”
The students involved with Urban Agriculture Cooperative play important roles to curate, pack and deliver the “farms to families”share boxes to food pantries, schools, nonprofits and special clinical settings. Culinary Arts students are most involved in the food prep, Graphic Arts students help by making labels for the products and Business students analyze the cost/profit margins for selling the products.
After four years, this partnership between the cooperative and district continues to evolve. ECST students can now participate in paid work-based learning opportunities for the organization. Members at Urban Agriculture Cooperative also mentor the students and offer job-shadowing experiences. In numerous ways, ECST students are now involved in making products and packaging them weekly for more than 100 community boxes.