Back in May we posted about BBYO’s PB&J (Poverty, Bread & Justice) Jewish Teen Summit on Hunger. There was little doubt that the summit would be anything but amazing. Below, participant Joshua Chasan from Seattle recounts his experience there, to fill us in on just how amazing it was.

When I was preparing to come to Washington, DC, for PB & J I really tried to get myself into a business mindset. I wanted to be mentally prepared for a lot of learning and the serious nature of the topic of hunger. Beyond that, I really didn’t know what else to expect.

On Thursday, I arrived in Washington, DC, with more than 70 other teens from around the country. Some I had met at other BBYO events and the rest would soon become my friends. We started the seminar with an eye-opening event, the Oxfam Hunger Banquet. The activity broke the 72 of us into the world’s populations; the majority being low income and without food, and a very small majority having access to food regularly. After our learning banquet we were joined by Hazon founder, Nigel Savage for our real dinner and later he spoke to all of us.

Mr. Savage spoke to our group about the answers we all came to Washington, DC, to answer:

How does what I eat impact the environment?
What is Kosher, and why does it matter?
How can I promote healthy eating?
How can I fight hunger?

He spoke to us about how we can play an active role now in creating a healthier and more sustainable community, and about our Jewish responsibility to not just act, but also to learn and think. He asked us to learn about food, where the food comes from before it is served to us and to think about our choices, and the difference we can make with our choices. Mr. Savage’s presentation really opened my eyes to the ways that I wasn’t thinking and to how I may have been taking life and the environment around me for granted.

Sunday was probably my most fulfilling and inspiring day. We all went to an organic, kosher farm to participate in some real manual service. At Kayam Organic Farm we learned about the Jewish connection to the acts of planting and harvesting. When we were harvesting tomatoes, garlic, onions and other herbs, we made sure to practice Pe’ah, setting aside a portion of the field for those that need it most: the orphan, the widow and the stranger. This activity really opened my eyes to the life cycle of food and also the Jewish connection to food that goes beyond what we eat for holidays.

My participation at Kayam Organic Farm really inspired me and motivated me to look into these similar opportunities in my home town of Seattle. I would really like to participate in the urban garden initiatives that are taking place in my own community.

This weekend’s events really prepared me for the finale on Monday, my visit to Capitol Hill. I was really lucky to meet with Moire Duggan, the Legislative Assistant for Education, Science, Energy and Environment Issues, of my Senator, Pat Murray. Happily my Senator and I tend to see eye to eye on a lot of the issues. In my meeting I shared my gratitude for Senator Murray’s support and talked to the assistant about increasing funding for the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act as well as improving public transportation and light rail in Washington.

After my meeting I felt so good about what I had accomplished. I didn’t know what to expect from this entire program, but at the end I feel informed, and passionate about this issue, and even better I know how to work to solve it. After PB & J there are 72 more teens who are ready to Stand UP together to fight hunger and make our world a better place.

For more stories on Jews, food and contemporary issues, check out The Jew & The Carrot.