I spent last weekend in Chapel Hill, NC attending an inspiring summit based around the challenges and rewards of creating sustainable food offerings and opportunities at college campuses throughout the Southeast. Students from around the region - Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Tennessee, and even Florida - met at UNC for the Real Food Challenge Southeast Youth Food Activist Summit, a weekend of workshops and panels intended to arm students with the skills to return home and effect change on their own campus.
I helped lead one of the workshops, "Students Organizing for Real Food on Campus", in its morning and afternoon session, and was thrilled to hear about the efforts already underway elsewhere in the southeast. UNC has just opened a sustainably themed cafe; Davidson Dining has given its list of vendors to a group of students and charged them with finding suitably sustainable replacements; a student at Maryland has created her own sustainability internship with their Dining unit starting this semester; NC State has an on-campus weekly farmer's market; and the list goes on. We acknowledged that we are all a significant way off from seeing true sustainable food systems in our communities, but appreciated the chance to share best practices and to become well informed so we can better shape our respective colleges and universities.
Keynote speaker Anna Lappe put it well on Friday evening when she said that asking ourselves whether or not we were winning the battle against the conventional food system was not entirely the best question to pose; rather, we would do well to consider whether we are shaping history consciously. The group of passionate and motivated students at SYFAS 2010 are certainly doing so.