Sweet Potato Project Curriculum

OUR PROGRAM: The Sweet Potato Project provides a unique, disciplined and cultural approach that uses food (growing, processing, selling) to motivate and educate “at-risk” youth on the benefits of entrepreneurship in low-income, disadvantaged communities. The project is based on the theory that poverty, unemployment, and lack of economic opportunities fuel crime, psychic trauma, illegal drug activity, disproportionate high school dropout rates and the incarceration of (mostly) minority youth in juvenile and, eventually, adult correctional facilities.

Below is a summary of our nine-week summer program (Note: Activities may change due to presenter availability and/or off-site scheduling):

WEEK ONE: GETTING TO KNOW YOU
Orientation; One-on-one interviews; Planting produce; Speaking publicly & confidently exercises; Focus on assessing student’s individual strengths; Site visit(s)

Goals: 

  • Self-discovery / Target unique individual strengths
  • Personal Improvement / Self-worth
  • Verbal & Nonverbal Communication
  • Group Communication
  • Leadership/Teamwork

WEEK TWO: KNOWING MEDIA & IT’S INFLUENCE

Daily news round-up; Social Media Review; Power of Hip-Hop Music; Presentations on entrepreneurism, culture and neighborhood opportunities. Business visit(s)

Goals:

  • Understanding Media (newspapers, radio, social media) and new opportunities
  • Understanding how celebrities influence our buying decisions
  • How does “black culture” sell?
  • Focus on rappers, sports figures and entertainers who invest in neighborhoods
  • What is your personal responsibility to community?
  • Creating and marketing a “Brand” 

WEEK THREE:  KNOWING YOUR COMMUNITY

How black people live, shop and survive. Online Opportunities; The Value of North St. Louis; Owning land/Growing food; Interaction with local entrepreneurs; What are LRA Properties? Site visit(s)

Goals: 

  • Understanding the power of land ownership
  • Understanding the power of consumerism
  • How to start a small business
  • Land Lease/$1 Dollar Homes/ Mow-to-Own / Acquiring vacant land
  • Understanding neighborhood collaborations

WEEK FOUR: KNOWING POLITICS

Understanding how politics effect neighborhood progress Review of local branches of government (comptroller, aldermen, etc.), Review local examples of community revitalization (example, Friendly Temple, the Grove Area, Central Corridor, etc.) and political power

Goals: 

  • Understanding how politics/politicians can help revitalize neighborhoods
  • Understanding the dynamics of media and politics
  • Understanding local politics & political offices
  • How to engage in political activities for positive change

WEEK FIVE: KNOWING FOOD

Understanding produce & products (value-added products); Understand nutritional value, food processing procedures; Product Development; Understanding food sales. Site visit(s).

Goals:  

  • Why we eat what we eat?
  • How to turn produce into products
  • Is healthy eating profitable?
  • Understanding who will buy your food/product and why?
  • Finding opportunities to sell your food or food-based products

WEEK SIX:  KNOWING THE MARKET

Define “Branding” and “Marketing”; Product development & marketing exercises; Identify consumer and community branding; Demographic marketing. Site visit(s).

Goals:

  • Understanding what’s marketed to you and why
  • What is a marketable neighborhood?
  • Understanding triggers and why we buy what we buy
  • What are community needs?

WEEK SEVEN: KNOWING YOUR MONEY

Understanding banking necessities (checking and savings); Understanding predatory lending and establishing and maintaining “good credit” and personal finances. Site visit(s)

Goals: 

  • Understanding how money works in the real world
  • What is Financial Literacy?
  • Creating Realistic Budgets
  • Career Choices & Opportunities
  • College Prep Discussions

WEEK EIGHT: FOOD AS AN ECONOMIC ENGINE 

Understanding produce & products (what we eat & why); Understanding food processing/manufacturing; How food can serve & save communities. Site visit(s).

Goals:  

  • Creating a basic business plan;
  • Understanding competition, financial management, profit & loss
  • Why “location, location, location” is important
  • How Entrepreneurs can change neighborhoods
  • Sales, Marketing, Distribution, Branding lessons and/or presentations
  • Land Ownership (insurance, government programs, taxes, etc.)

WEEK NINE: REVIEW, PRACTICE & CELEBRATION

Turn in business plans; Discuss new food products; Program evaluations; End-of-Summer-Celebration (public event).