Feeding the Mind, Body, and Spirit of NYC’s Youth

by Deirdre Appel
Part of the Community Spotlight Series

Name: The Fresh Start Initiative

What They Do: The Fresh Start Initiative (TFSI) is an educational organization offering healthy cooking and gardening programs to children and youth, from preschool through high school, at schools in the most vulnerable food-desert neighborhoods.

The organization is working towards a future in which all students, regardless of race, gender, or economic background, have the skills and resources to grow and cook their own nutritious, affordable, and creative meals.

How They Do It: TFSI’s school programs introduce children to fresh fruits and vegetables while educating them and empowering their families to embrace healthy, scratch-based, plant-based cooking. Currently TFSI is working with children aged two to five years at East Harlem Block Nursery and also with high school students ranging from ages 15 to 21 years at the Bronx’s Jill Chaifetz Transfer School, where learning about nutrition is taught alongside career and technical education, career development, and occupational studies. Most recently, students seeking continuing culinary experience and/or education have been given the opportunity to meet with Chef Thomas after school, study the culinary arts and take the Food Handlers Certification course. Additionally, TFSI participates in the NYU Liberty Partnership Program which provides comprehensive services designed to meet the academic, psychological, social and other developmental needs of high-risk students.As a partner of that program, they offer after-school culinary classes, summer culinary classes and gardening camps to high school students across NYC.

Mission: TFSI feeds the mind, body, and spirit of an underserved population of children and adults through interactive, approachable, and community-focused lessons about food from farm to fork and beyond.

Latest project/campaign: As demand for TFSI’s program continues to grow, participating schools are prioritized according to need. Additionally, in an effort to reach children with special needs, P17X Middle School in the Bronx will soon be added as their newest partner.

Major Funding: Community Based Organizations (CBOs), DOE, Donations

Profit/nonprofit:  Profit

Annual Revenue: N/A

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: Using his experience as a preschool teacher at The Children’s Aid Society and his extensive culinary background, TFSI’s founder, Thomas Stevens, has developed a school curriculum for pre-K through high school that includes planting and maintaining grow towers and greenhouses, composting, and providing a comprehensive collection of mainly plant-based recipes that are culturally sensitive, healthy and delicious.  


Location: 2603 Grand Avenue, Bronx, NY 10468, US
Core Programs:Healthy Cooking, Education, Gardening Programs for children from pre-school to high-school
Number of staff: 8
Number of volunteers: 8
Areas served:NYC’s five boroughs
Year Started: 2014
Director/Founder:  Thomas Stevens
Contact Information: info@thefreshstartinitiative.com
Website:  https://thefreshstartinitiative.com

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