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This past weekend I, along with a Slow Food USA national office colleague and 300+ college students, ventured to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for the Northeast Real Food Summit, organized by the Real Food Challenge.

What’s the Real Food Challenge, you ask?

First, it’s a campaign that is seeking to make concrete and lasting change in university dining halls, with a target to redirect 20% of all food purchased by colleges and universities (currently 4 billion dollars) towards real food by 2020. Second, it is a network of students around the country that shares information and resources about how to achieve this goal, as well as the larger goals of reforming the food system at large.

Slow Food works closely with the Real Food Challenge and its student activists so when we were asked to present a workshop during the Summit, there was no hesitation.  While we discussed Slow Food, focusing on Slow Food on Campus, the youth experience at Terra Madre and Slow Food Nation and the youth movement as a whole, students in other workshops learned about procuring local, organic, seasonal and sustainable food for their campus dining services.  They heard about strategies for approaching university presidents and dining service directors, with an emphasis on universities’ and colleges’ present desire to improve their sustainability ratings.

The dining service providers that supplied our meals for the weekend pulled out all the stops to impress the collection of food activists and left no empty bellies.  Overall, the weekend inspired conversations, connections, education, networking, and inspiration for all participants and left everyone with a renewed excitement for the youth movement.

To get involved in the Real Food Challenge (and find out information on the 4 other regional summits happening in the next few weeks), click here.

To read about efforts in sustainable dining on the University of Montana campus, read our post from a few days ago.