Meet Dawn Ortiz: Winner of the McKinley Hightower-Beyah Award

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At Just Food’s Conference on March 15th, New York City Comptroller and longtime ally of Just Food Scott Stringer presented the McKinley Hightower-Beyah Award to South Bronx resident Dawn Ortiz. Just Food launched the award in 2008 to commemorate McKinley Hightower-Beyah, a dear friend of Just Food, for his lifelong work and achievements. Each year, the award highlights an outstanding youth who has demonstrated a commitment to urban agriculture, community leadership, and social justice.

This year, Comptroller Stringer, along with McKinley’s family and Just Food Board Member Karen Washington, presented the award to 18-year-old Dawn Ortiz. Dawn has been participating in the ACTION program at South Bronx community development corporation The Point, a South Bronx community development organization, for more than three years.

“The ACTION program gave me the chance to learn about food and environmental justice issues in my community and then work on campaigns,” she says. Dawn helped with the South Bronx Greenway campaign team and worked in The Point’s urban farm.

Dawn was also a member of The Point’s Blank Plate program, a culinary arts program for youth, which encourages teens to transform their relationships with food through creative culinary experiences.

“Learning how to cook and eat healthy has changed my life. I eat more salads and I try new and different types of food--I never thought I would do that! I especially love eating food that I grow myself,” she says.

“I had no idea that my work would get me an award. I just did it to help others in my community and have fun,” says Dawn, who was thrilled when she was selected.

Just Food is excited to honor Dawn for her commitment to food justice and to continue to celebrate McKinley Hightower-Beyah’s legacy.

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