Uniting students for just and sustainable food.

February 22, 2010

The Real Food Challenge is a national campaign to bring local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound and humane food to college campuses.  RFC is organized by The Food Project, The California Student Sustainability Coalition and many other partnering organizations. Over 300 schools across the nation are involved.  The RFC team is working on a concert tour to spread the word and hosts summits for college students.  RFC trainings help connect students in the same region and teach campaign and leadership skills crucial to success.  This weekend the Northeast summit was held at Boston College. I went with another undergraduate with whom I am working with to establish a garden here on campus. Although there is no Real Food Challenge chapter at Tufts, we believe in the RFC principles and mission and want to get a food campaign boiling in Somerville. The RFC is all about encouraging any form of food activism.

The workshop was very well run by David Shwartz, a leader in the Real Food movement at Brown, and Marissa Grossman, a National Campaign Coordinator at The Food Project.  They were easy to relate to, but knowledgeable and organized.  One of the highlights of the weekend was when David shared his story about how The Food Project helped him come to terms with the socio-economic inequality in the neighborhoods of his childhood.  The leaders were great facilitators who respected what we students had to say and helped us to develop our ideas, emotions and concerns.

The weekend started out with a ball of yarn and a brain storming session.  We sat around the Real Food Wheel and talked about what we thought it was missing, how Real Food is really a balancing act between the four quadrants, how those quadrants are too often pitted against each other, and how their boundaries are really much more fluid. As we spoke one person at a time we cradled the ball of yarn, holding on to a portion of the string as we lobbed it to the next student with her hand raised.  Once we had formed a web of pink string we thought about what the web represents: strength in connections, and a responsibility to play your role.  As we finished up the exercise and tossed the yarn back whence it came we mentioned something or someone who we wanted to connect with more.  I thought of the ground and connecting to its worth by learning to grow food.

The second day we heard from a representative of Slow Money, a new nonprofit with a mission to bring money back down to earth. Before that, we participated in a campaign organizing workshop discussing and planning with advocates from our own schools. Mount Holyoke, Brandeis, Boston College and many other schools were represented.

When we stepped into the beautiful, tennis court-sized BC garden and I was encouraged to hear that the summer head grower was a greenhorn like me.  “I had absolutely no idea before this,” she said, “But it is great and incredibly rewarding.”  We talked to her about companion planting and compost.

Next we heard from a representative of the Farm to School Project in Massachusetts and watched a touching documentary. Planting 4 Peace was written, filmed and edited by inner city kids that chose to grow food over violence.  The film illustrated the connection between the availability of jobs and the crime rate, urging the creation of green jobs for youth.  It drew a serious, but important analogy between the seed and the bullet.  This analogy was explored through research of the Guerilla Gardening movement.  The kids learned how to make seed bombs (soil and seeds wrapped in a ball of clay to be hurled wherever deemed necessary).  Planting 4 Peace was an honest film that showed the effectiveness  and strength of a project that involves city kids in growing food. We finished off the night with delicious pizza made of mostly locals by BC’s sustainable cafe Addie’s.

The weekend was encouraging, inspiring and fun.  Connecting with foodies from colleges in the Northeast was invaluable.  We now have a great model school to help us with establishing the garden–Brandies broke ground on their’s in the Fall.  Needless to say, I will be very excited to get the full email list.  I got to talking with one of the BC students and discovered she has a fantastic food blog with seriously enticing recipes and everything that is good in food photography.  You must visit Belle’s 20 Bites.  The Mount Holyoke crew published a 2010 veggie nudie calendar that is beyond awesome.  Email to inquire about a copy: FJScalendar@gmail.com

Join The Real Food Challenge today.


2 Responses to “Uniting students for just and sustainable food.”

  1. Alex said

    I feel like Marquette is a part of this? I know we have a “Slow Food” student group. Great post–thanks Sig.

    • Aubergine said

      Here is the list of Universities involved with The Real Food Challenge. The RFC isn’t affiliated with Slow Food, although they certainly share many ideals and have similar philosophies. Slow Food is an organization that started in Italy in response to the opening of the first McDonalds and has spread throughout the world and on to many college campuses. Real Food is certainly also Slow Food: good, clean and fair.

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