NEWSBRIEF: Urban Roots celebrates 50 years

Urban Roots, a nonprofit that promotes youth leadership through connections to nature, healthy food, and community with its earn-as-you-learn programs on St. Paul’s East Side, has been celebrating its 50th birthday with a variety of events this year. On Aug. 21, the St. Paul City Council passed a resolution to recognize Urban Roots’ 50-year anniversary, and the festivities continue right up to the organization’s big party on Sept. 12 at Paikka event center, 550 Vandalia St., with Chef Yia Vang in the kitchen, drinks, entertainment, and more.

Urban Roots began as Community Design Center of Minnesota in 1969, working in Minneapolis and St. Paul to help communities with planning. The name Urban Roots came to be in 2014, as the organization shifted its focus to programs for youth and their families with a geographical focus on the East Side. Each year, staff work with over 60 teen interns, many of whom are from first and second generation new American families, many of whom face barriers to resources. To date, Urban Roots has provided opportunities for over a thousand youth to gain job and life skills through hands-on programming while working with community and business leaders.  

In 2019, Urban Roots Cook Fresh teen interns have been engaged with local chefs, such as  Yia Vang, Jametta Raspberry, and Ann Ahmed, learning cooking skills and developing new recipes. Market Garden interns run a small farm business with a CSA program and sell produce at Mill City Farmers Market and local stores and restaurants. Conservation interns work in local parks, restoring habitat, becoming park ambassadors and learning about beekeeping and solutions to water pollution and declining pollinator populations.  All interns work with Roots for the Home Team to sell freshly picked salads and house-made salad dressings at Twins games. All three programs immerse students in hands-on experiences as they learn active and healthy life habits through through connections to fresh and nutritious food and active work. In 2018, Urban Roots expanded its urban agriculture programming by opening a new hoop house and garden on Rivoli Bluffs in the Railroad Island neighborhood.

For more information about Urban Roots, its programs and upcoming events, go to

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