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Portrait of Gretchen Carvajal in a blue print dress

Increasingly, children are being diagnosed with diabetes, and many people worry about how to reach these younger ages. Gretchen Carvajal is a poet mentor at an innovative program in San Francisco.

Gretchen laughs at herself as a kid: “I felt like such a nerd. All of my friends did cool sh** in high school. I was such a square. I was sneaking out of the house to do poetry – ‘I’m heading out to this poetry slam.’ Yeah, that was my life in high school.”

Poetry is still her life today. Gretchen works as a poetry mentor for Youth Speaks in San Francisco, where she leads writing workshops based around health and food accessibility. “Your relationship with health is also your relationship with your community. Your relationship with health is also your relationship with your family and with your body. And these are the things that we always ask our young people to think about, about interacting with everything outside of me.”

For Gretchen, the writing makes connections between what people eat and the environment they live in. “It’s not about not eating this hot Cheeto, or this fuego, or this Coke. It’s so much larger than just, you know, what I had to eat today. It’s about how can I get accessibility to things outside of this corner store or outside of this food desert? It’s getting them really aware of the systems at an early age.”

And learning about healthy food through spoken word poetry is “a lot more accessible,” she says, “rather than reading it in a medical journal, to be able to access it through poetry and shared experience in these workshops.”

Gretchen's Story - San Francisco, CA

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