Sophie Bernstein of St. Louis, MO, is the founder of Grow Healthy, an initiative that provides helps low-income communities access healthy, organic produce by building raised vegetable gardens and hosting food drives.
Volunteering and service is a key part of her family life. Her father, Navy Reserves Capt. Brad Bernstein, was deployed after 9/11 and instilled the values of service and commitment to fostering positive change in her community. Sophie wanted to give back to her community in a way that she was passionate about, so over eight years ago, Sophie built her own vegetable garden and donated the harvest to area food banks.
During a tour of the food bank, she was astonished by the lack of healthy options and fresh produce. The shelves were stocked with cookies, chips, and even soda. She wanted to expand her project, so she could donate more fresh produce and incorporate a service-learning component. Sophie reached out to preschools and daycare centers in low-income communities with a plan to build, plant, and maintain gardens at low-income preschools, donating the produce back to the foodbank and teaching the students about the importance of healthy eating, gardening, and simple healthy recipes. After receiving an enthusiastic response from the schools, she contacted middle and high schools for volunteers and applied for youth grants to finance the projects. Off-season, Sophie host healthy food drives and hosted cooking classes to raise awareness and promote the importance of healthy and nutritious habits. The organization is youth-led, volunteer-driven, and committed to engaging youth in service.
Sophie is currently entering her second year of medical school at The University of Missouri - Kansas City. She hopes to expand her garden project Grow Healthy to low-income daycares throughout the nation by offering mini-grants to urban and rural daycares to build raised garden beds, plant and harvest produce gardens for their communities. The Grow Healthy project is a youth-led program under @volunTEENnation.