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The new school year has only just begun and already students in the Slow Food network have explored new communities, connected with our partners and forged relationships with new student activists. As I begin my second fall with Slow Food on Campus, it is inspiring to see how many more young people are interested in getting involved to make a difference in their community. To give you a sense of how students are already engaged check out what our youth network has been up to in September.

Students from the University of Gastronomic Sciences, founded in 2004 by Slow Food, were in New York City for one of the programs thematic study trips, or stage. The University’s goal is to create an international research and education center for those working on renewing farming methods, protecting biodiversity, and building an organic relationship between gastronomy and agricultural science. To enhance the student’s international understanding, stages are planned all over the world. This fall a group of 12 students visited New York City and the surrounding area for ten days of visits to farms, producers, markets and local food cultural events. Those of us who helped to shepherd the students through their itinerary wished we could have taken ten days off to accompany them on all of the site visits.

For the last 5 years, the Student / Farmworker Alliance (SFA) has set aside a weekend to bring together the organization’s broad network of allies to connect and deepen their work in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). The weekend is called the Encuentro. I attended this year. It was my first visit to Florida, where almost everyday there are massive thunderstorms in the middle of the afternoon. The experience changed my understanding of fairness in the food system and reaffirmed my personal motivation to work for food justice.

And, since the Encuentro, two major wins have been made public with the support of the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Agriculture. The food service provider Compass and major tomato grower East Coast Growers and Packers have come to the table and negotiated Fair Food agreements with the CIW. For the details of these negotiations, check out articles from The Nation and the Washington Post.

And, this past weekend, the NextGEN hosted a College Environmental Activist Leadership Conference at Yale. This exciting conference played host to more than 200 college leaders, many of whom were new to environmental activism. Gordon Jenkins, Slow Food USA’s Advocacy Coordinator, and I presented a workshop entitled ‘Shifting Attitudes Towards Food’ where we discussed changing attitudes as a tactic for the larger goal of altering the food system.

Needless to say, our youth network is already busy and it’s only the end of September. We are all excited to see how things will take off with our fall program to draw attention to Good, Clean and Fair.