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Reflections on NE Food & Justice Summit

Anim Steel, Real Food Challenge cofounder and Food Project national programs director addresses over 500 NE Food & Justice Summit attendees.
Anim Steel, Real Food Challenge cofounder and Food Project national programs director addresses over 500 NE Food & Justice Summit attendees.
From where I stand, the weekend was a huge success. It was what we hoped for and more. The event showed that there is a movement ready to burst out there: over 500 youth showed up at Northeastern University. If it hadn’t been for a snowstorm, we would probably have had over 650. The registrations were pouring in at the end.

And this wasn’t just the “choir.” There were many young people there who were pretty new to the issue of food.

The diversity of the crowd was striking in other ways. The Summit was attended by young people from some of the most and least privileged places in this country, from inner cities to Ivy Leagues and in-between. I hope—I think—we created an environment with the ethos of The Food Project: looking injustice in the face while also creating common ground—a deeply respectful space. 

Perhaps my favorite part of the Summit was the Planning Team and volunteers. This was truly a youth-run event, with high school students, college students, and recent grads all in the core group. Saturday’s dinner was lovingly prepared by a partnership of TFP interns, Future Chefs, and extended Food Project family—chef Joan MacIsaacs made her return to the Food Project kitchen, for instance, to help out. 

OK, the Biggest Fan game during the Saturday opener also rocked—no pun intended! A 500-person Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament that resulted in one winner within 10 minutes? Pure, joyous, pandemonium. Thank you, Philly (Urban Nutrition Initiative, to be precise) for introducing us to this game. It is now a solid Real Food Challenge tradition which reached its peak this Sunday. The photos capture it pretty well—and the vibrant, supportive atmosphere that pervaded the conference in general.

One last favorite thing. During Saturday afternoon’s “Speak-Out” session, I was struck by how one young man answered the question: “Why do you want real food?” On his paper, he wrote: “Because I am real.”

What a fitting way to end a month of gatherings all around the country….

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