Sophie Bernstein, Military Child of the Year, Honored for Commitment to Sustainable Food

Apr 12, 2017 5:15 PM ET

17-year old Sophie Bernstein (pictured, above), recipient of the 2017 Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation, is passionate about sustainable food and social justice. Sophie’s commitment to improving the health of her community one garden at a time also led to her teaching lower-income children how to fish – metaphorically, that is – through gardening and science, technology, engineering and math practices (STEM).

“Most of the children I help may not know where their next meal is coming from, let alone know how to grow their own produce,” said Berstein. “To be able to give the community access to fresh produce and to teach others about the importance of gardening and healthy eating is an incredible experience.  The smile on their faces when they realize what they can do is what I love the most about this project.”

What started as a backyard garden in 2012 grew to 22 raised vegetable gardens at low-income daycare centers and shelters in the St. Louis area – that has generated 13,500 pounds of produce to date. Her efforts are raising awareness of childhood hunger in her local community and increasing the volume of fresh and healthy produce available for food banks and childcare facilities.

Chosen from a pool of finalists by Booz Allen Hamilton employees, Bernstein accepted the award at Operation Homefront’s Military Child of the Year Awards Gala on April 6. The award recognizes “a military child who has designed a bold, creative solution to address a local, regional or global challenge.”

Bernstein’s idea to improve her community’s health started with a love of the outdoors and gardening. Over time, her gardens began to produce more than enough fruit and vegetables for herself and her family. With her surplus, she began to give the extra food to local families and food banks. Additionally, she began to reach out to local preschools and crisis nursery centers to teach kids about the importance of healthy eating, gardening and STEM.

Over the past year, Bernstein led 225 STEM botany and plant science workshops for low-income children, sharing the basics of planting, building, and maintaining their own produce gardens.

Others have caught wind of Sophie’s effort via social media. Bernstein has recruited over 780 teen volunteers from area high schools to help with gardens and the plant science workshops.

In addition to a cash prize, Sophie has won the opportunity to work with a team of Booz Allen consultants to help her achieve her vision and scale her project. Sophie and her family visited Booz Allen’s Innovation Center on April 4 where she met her team of consultants – all Booz Allen volunteers – who/which presented her with a plan that could expand her current operation. With the team’s help, Sophie hopes to better the lives in her community and across America.

Want to learn more about how Booz Allen is empowering girls in STEM, see here.