As an intern at a consulting firm this summer, I had the opportunity to work with several nonprofit and advocacy organizations. One of these organization was ANCHOR Rhode Island, which works to promote healthy living and combat obesity. ANCHOR brought in my company to help organize a grassroots campaign and promote healthier eating and drinking in the communities of Pawtucket and Central Falls, Rhode Island.
I learned that a grassroots campaign will not thrive when people from a business outside the community come in and tell people what they need to do, like drink more water to be healthy. Brining effective change and running a successful grassroots campaign requires the community itself to desire change. Thus we enlisted the help of the Boys and Girls Club of Pawtucket and the Central Falls Youth Council. The youth from the two organizations conducted surveys throughout their communities. They asked questions about diet trends, like how often people drink soda and sugary drinks, how much they drink water, and why they choose to drink certain things. The surveyors also asked community members if their drinking habits would change if more water fountains were available in public places, or if taxes were placed on sugary drinks.
I found educating the youth of a community to be a good strategy, and also an enlightening experience. It’s easy to acknowledge that water is healthier than sugary drinks, but it takes an effort to sit down with kids and understand why they drink sugary drinks. There is the fact that some people enjoy the taste of a soda or juice, but there are also factors like the safety and availability of water, and even the cheaper cost of a sugary drink in a store compared to a bottle of water. I also found that empowering youth to bring change to their communities was a successful strategy for my project, and can be equally successful in other movements. As a Wake the Voter, I see so many opportunities in which educating youth on issues like political and voter participation can bring other substantial changes to a community.