• Social Innovation Fellowship

Award Year 

The Real Food Challenge

The Real Food Challenge is a national initiative uniting students for a just and sustainable food system. Currently working with students on over 300 campuses in the US, the RFC calls on colleges and universities to invest the over $4 billion they spend on food in a real food economy—a food economy that truly nourishes consumers, producers, communities, and the earth. By providing young leaders with key organizing tools, support, and networking opportunities, the RFC illuminates, nourishes, and grows grassroots student action.

The central campaign is to re-direct at least $1 billion of food purchased by colleges and universities toward real food within 10 years. This is our flagship goal—but not the only one. The RFC also supports efforts to develop more college farms, student-community partnerships, academic programs that deal with food systems, solidarity actions with other campaigns, climate change connections and more. Ultimately, we are coalescing a new youth movement that will inspire our generation to reclaim the universal right to a real food economy.

Personal Statement

When I was fourteen my mom told me I needed to get a summer job. Little did I know during that first summer working on the farms managed by the Boston-based Food Project that I would uncover a whole new world of pain and possibility. What started as an eager attempt to earn some cash working outside soon turned into a crash course in modern food systems, leading me to some of the people I now look up to most in life. I met Cape Verdean immigrant gardeners, who in the midst of a neighborhood academics now call “an urban food desert” or a product of "food redlining," proudly filled their front lawns and back with traditional varieties of squash and beans. I worked with a small farmer in Nicaragua who, in the face of unregulated tourist development and speculation, decided that land, sustenance, and community were more important than foreign capital. I met with the farmworkers in Immokalee, Florida who were once told, after speaking out about the routine physical abuse in the tomato fields, "a tractor doesn't tell the farmer how to run his farm." These are some of the people I carry with me; they are the ones that remind me, despite my cozy home in the Ivy-laden tower, what I'm working for. They remind me, that when it comes to our current global food system, another world is possible, and indeed necessary.