Real Food Challenge Southeast

Catalyzing the Southern Youth Movement for Just and Sustainable Food

Students and community in Auburn, Alabama want real food because… April 13, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — asparks8 @ 2:23 pm

Auburn University students and community members share why they want real food via photo petitions from Earth Fest! Check out more fresh photos and group projects on their website:

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“Youth food activism summit relocates to Georgia” March 8, 2011

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by Rebecca Seawell

Assistant Editor for Reese Felts Digital Newsroom, Reesenews, Chapel Hill, NC

For the last two years, the Real Food Challenge has hosted its Southeastern Youth Food Activism Summit on UNC – Chapel Hill’s campus. But this year, North Carolina’s sustainable food enthusiasts will have to travel much further to participate.

Coordinators announced in December that the summit — held Feb. 11 to Feb. 13 — would be held in Athens, Georgia, for its third year.

The change is part of an effort to better incorporate young adults from a different region, said Melissa Tinling, one of the summit’s southeast regional field coordinators.

Miller Learning Center, UGA

“We’re trying to get other people and other ideas involved,” Tinling said. “It will be interesting to get a different subset from the southeast and to work more closely with students from other schools.”

The summit is an opportunity for young adults — mainly high school students, college students and recent graduates — across America to learn from each other and discover ways to make sustainable food more accessible, said Tinling.

The event is organized by the Real Food Challenge, a campaign that empowers young people throughout the nation to help increase access to healthy, local and sustainable food options on campuses and elsewhere.

“I think transport might be a little bit of a deterrent,” said Meghan Robbins, a participant of last year’s conference. “But I think it’s great, even though there will be less people from Chapel Hill, there will be more people from Georgia and we will get to hear things we wouldn’t be able to hear if it was happening here.”

Robbins, a sophomore anthropology major at UNC-CH, said that she had a positive experience at last year’s conference. Robbins said her interest in environmental sustainability led her to become interested in sustainable food.

Robbins said that one high school participant’s enthusiasm and passion for sustainable food, which inspired him to create a community garden at his school, particularly inspired her.

“At that point, I thought ‘I don’t have an excuse not to put my all into this anymore’,” Robbins said.

Alicia Sparks, who works with Tinling as a southeast regional field coordinator, said that the main goal of the summit is connecting and empowering.

“It’s about seeing the power that we do have and in an exciting way the responsibility we do have,” Sparks said. “I hope that people can see that by learning and working together.”

The summit’s attendance rates have more than doubled since its first year, when approximately 60 students participated, said Tingling. Even with this year’s relocation, coordinators expect more than 150 attendees.

“It definitely takes a lot of effort to push for the things we’re working on,” Sparks said. “It’s a very collective effort, but at the same time a diverse effort. It’s a challenge to stay connected to the common cause and maintain the network.”

Tinling said the change from a small college town to a more urban setting might help reign in new and fresh perspectives.

“The first day is centered on connecting, meeting people from all over the place and sharing stories about how we got here,” Tinling said.

The next day is all about learning, she said. Participants will attend workshops and listen to guest speakers lecture on subjects such as ecofeminism in food and how to start a campus garden.

“Sunday is more tangible,” Tingling said. “It’s about taking skills and ideas and how to bring them back here.”

The last day of the conference is also when participants attend panels and learn about what other organizations are working on in different parts of the southeast.

“It’s a weekend of workshops, networking, food and fun,” said Robbins, who is also a member of Fair, Local and Organic, a student-run organization that aims to increase access to organic, local and sustainable food on campus.

Despite the long drive, Robbins said she and several others plan on carpooling to Athens for the summit.

“There’s not a downside to improving the way you eat,” said Robbins. “You bring people and communities together — it’s at the heart of everything we do in our lives.”


SYFAS 2011 December 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — mtinling @ 12:59 pm

Registration is now open for the 3rd Annual Southeast Youth Food Activism Summit (SYFAS) at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia


February 11-13 2011


Whether you read it on the signs of photo petitions across Florida, or see it in the eyes that light up over a rooftop garden in Maryland, youth energy for Real Food is alive and growing. From Virginia to Alabama and all across the region students are sitting down with dining services, presenting to university presidents, marching with farm workers, and organizing fellow students—we are taking a stand together for just and sustainable food.

For three days in February this youth-driven energy will converge in Georgia for the 3rd annual Southeast Youth Food Activism Summit (SYFAS). It will be the largest youth convergence for just and sustainable food in the Southeast—uniting over 200 college students and youth allies. With workshops, panels, speakers, and local field trips, SYFAS will be a chance to connect with other youth food activists across the region, to share stories and skills, and to ignite new ideas and opportunities for action, and to form lasting relationships.

No matter where you are in your own food movement- fresh or already dug in- SYFAS is creating a space for a powerful, diverse, youth-driven change.  We stand for a better food system; and you’re part of it!



There are a number of ways to get involved in the planning process! If you would like to be part of the planning team in any way:


  • Email us with your name and what you’re interested in helping with
  • (Not sure yet how you’d like to be involved but still interested? No worries–email us and we can talk more!)

Keep it real,

Alicia and Melissa



UNC Chapel Hill Wants Real Food! December 3, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — mtinling @ 12:51 am

Check out these photos from Fair, Local, Organic (FLO) Foods at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill!

We want Real Food for..

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From North to South –More Photo Petitions across Florida! October 11, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — asparks8 @ 7:36 pm

…because University of North Florida in Jacksonville deserves Real Food too!

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“USF Students want a community garden for…”

Filed under: Uncategorized — asparks8 @ 2:15 pm

Students at the University of South Florida in Tampa are moving and showing support for a future community garden on campus! Check out a few of their photo petitions:

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Grassroots Activism Training Thrills Chapel Hill September 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — mtinling @ 8:21 am

UNC hosted the final Real Food Challenge regional summer leadership training, in partnership with the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) and UNC’s very own student organization, FLO Foods.  Over Labor Day weekend, 20 youth leaders from North Carolina, Maryland, Georgia, Virginia and Tennessee gathered in Chapel Hill to learn and share Grassroots organizing strategies and skills.  Workshops included Communication & Messaging, Strategic Campaign Planning, Deconstructing Racism, Stakeholder Meetings & Coalition Building, and The Real Food Calculator.  We were proud to welcome Dorothy Barker, our keynote speaker, who shared stories about her personal experiences with racism in Southern agriculture.

After arriving in town on Friday the group gathered for introductions and personal explorations of what “Real Food” means to us.  Saturday was packed with skill and issue workshops, punctuated by long intervals for hanging out over wonderful meals cooked by RAFI’s very own Sally Lee.  Saturday evening the group settled into a storytelling workshop that led us into long conversations late into the night.  On Sunday we jumped into a simulation “roll play” exercise in which small groups rotated through situations to practice messaging to five different targets: a chicken farmer, an oppositional student group, a reporter, a new student, and a campus dining administrator.  We concluded the weekend with a long period of open space for thoughtful reflection and next steps.

The North Carolina training mixed up a fascinating combination of individual stories and experiences with concrete skills and strategies. Passion for Real Food in the Southeast is strong- and getting stronger through our interactions with each other.  We are looking forward to the upcoming 3rd Annual Southeast Youth Food Activism Summit (SYFAS)!