50 Fund Rookie Playmaker: Dante Kaleo Alnas-Benson and Ecology Center

The 50 Fund and the Levi’s® brand today revealed the first Rookie Playmaker as part of the Playmaker program. The Rookie Playmaker program recognizes  youth ages 13-24 who are making a difference in the Bay Area by protecting the environment and advocating for community members in need. 

The 36th Playmaker of the 50 Fund is the Ecology Center; their mission is to inspire and build a sustainable, healthy and just future for the East Bay and beyond. The Ecology Center works to improve environmental health and wellness of disenfranchised communities, and provides services such as three Farmer’s Markets, two Farm Fresh Choice produce stands in low-income neighborhoods and curbside recycling for all Berkeley residents. Their Youth Environmental Academy is specifically dedicated to cultivating the next generation of environmentally conscious community leaders

They have recognized Dante Kaleo Alnas-Benson as their Playmaker and our first Rookie Playmaker. Dante joined the Ecology Center as a teen participant four years ago, and was drawn to the issue of health disparities and diet-related diseases that disproportionally affect low-income communities. He quickly moved from youth scholar to intern to staff, and now at the age of 22, he not only helps run the local Farmer’s Markets, he also helps serve as a role-model and leader for all incoming Youth Environmental Academy participants. 

Dante cherishes his role as a Youth Development Associate in charge of running fresh produce stands in low-income communities. According to Dante, “It is easy to pretend like what we as young people eat is not a big deal, to sweep the addiction to junk food and all the unhealthy food marketing that happens in our community under the rug. But there is something powerful about having another young person, your same age, in front of you telling you ‘hey, you have this choice, you can take this organic fruit and these vegetables and you can make meals from this.’ Over the years I have seen families come to the stands on a weekly basis. If we switch locations, they still come! It is great to see them bring their children and to hear about the meals they made with the produce they got from the Farm Fresh Choice stand. Sometimes they even bring me a plate!” 

Their Playmaker grant will be used to support new programming for their Youth Environmental Academy, which will enable more than 2000 youth to participate in a range of important environmentally-focused civic action projects that take place in the Bay Area during including greening the Life is Living Festival in West Oakland, leading interactive workshops at the Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference in Oakland and supporting the Farmer’s Markets and Farm Fresh Choice Stands. 

50 weeks. 50 grants. 50 opportunities to recognize Bay Area residents who are making a difference through their service to our community in celebration of Super Bowl 50. The 50 Fund’s Playmaker program was designed to showcase the real difference Bay Area nonprofits are making in the lives of our children, and people behind the scenes who are making that impact possible. 

Every Tuesday, the 50 Fund – the legacy fund of the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee – will reveal a new Playmaker and share that nonprofit’s story of inspiration.