On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” Yvelande Astreide, Office Manager of Taste of Immokalee, talks about the impacts of the youth entrepreneurship program that sells Immokalee-made salsa and sauces. “We’re taking the students out of fields and placing them in a business setting. We’re helping them get career and college ready. And in turn, they’re changing lives in their communities and in Immokalee,” says Astreide.
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The Immokalee, Florida area is heavily agricultural, producing one-third of all U.S. tomatoes. “All of our parents here work in the fields or in packing houses,” says Astreide. “Over 80 percent of the students in the program are immigrant students. Our parents migrated here for a better life.” However, Immokalee hosts the second poorest community in Florida and nearly half of the people in the town live below the poverty level. Through the entrepreneurship program, Taste of Immokalee aims to break the cycle of poverty for the next generation: “we’re trying to show them that they can accomplish they want with professionalism and real life experience,” says Astreide.
To join Taste of Immokalee, freshman students complete an apprenticeship and community service hours before entering a paid internship program, putting what they’ve learned in accounting, marketing, or sales into practice. In partnership with grocery stores like Publix and online, the students sell salsas, barbecue and hot sauces, and seasonal items like cookies all made with Immokalee-grown ingredients. “We want to make sure everything is locally grown and produced and the money goes back to the community,” says Astreide.
Taste of Immokalee students give back to their community by volunteering and in fundraisers inspired by their products. The social enterprise sells Christmas and Super Bowl baskets, using the profits for donations like toys for child centers and newborn clothing for local hospitals. After Hurricane Irma, Taste of Immokalee’s fundraising accumulated US$10,000 for disaster relief in the community. “It isn’t just buying salsa: you’re supporting a program that is helping alleviate poverty in the community and empower youth for a better future,” says Astreide.