10 young people who are making food better

From starting their own food companies to donating food that would be thrown away youths are undertaking many inspiring projects.

Brian Snyder/Reuters/File
A 14-year-old from the Boston neighborhood of Hyde Park harvests beets on a farm in suburban Lincoln, Mass. Across the US young Americans are starting food-related businesses and projects aimed at improving the availability and quality of the food that Americans eat.

Innovations in agriculture don’t just come from veteran environmentalists or food industry heavyweights. In fact, many inspiring projects are the creations of youth around the world. Food Tank is excited to highlight ten young foodies who make us more hopeful about the future:

Nikhil Arora and Alex Velez, 26 and 27, graduates of the University of California, Berkeley, turned down offers to enter the world of consulting and investment banking to pursue mushroom cultivation. The pair had been experimenting with growing mushrooms on coffee grounds, and after a successful bucket of oyster mushrooms, they launched Oakland-based Back to the Roots. They offer two main products: mushroom kits, which grow mushrooms in a cardboard box, and AquaFarm, a self-cleaning fish tank that uses the fishes’ waste to grow food. Their mission is to “make food personal again through the passionate development of tools that educate and inspire, one family at a time.”

Nicky Bronner, 17, has a sweet tooth, but he found himself butting heads with his parents who didn’t want him filling up on processed candies and junk food. Unwilling to sacrifice peanut butter cups and chocolate bars, Bronner, then 13, worked with his father to found Unreal Foods, which produces preservative-free candies. They are made with grass-fed dairy and fair trade cocoa. The products have made their way from the Bronners’ home outside Boston, Massachusetts, to major retailers such as Target, Kroger, and Wegmans.

Tyson Gersh, 25, is owner and founder of the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to engaging community members in sustainable agriculture projects on vacant lots. Such projects produce nutritious food while raising community awareness of urban farming. MUFI engages 2,500 volunteers and grew more than 10,000 pounds of produce this year alone. “Using agriculture as a platform to promote education, sustainability, and community—while simultaneously reducing socioeconomic disparity—we hope to empower urban communities,” Gersh writes.

Eve and Liam Knight, 12 and 13, are better known as the Spice Kidz. When the duo moved from Ireland to Pensacola, Florida, they were disappointed by the lack of curry. To remedy the situation, Eve and Liam decided to introduce an easy-to-use spice packet to Americans. The pair won an entrepreneurship competition at the Young Entrepreneur’s Academy of Greater Pensacola; their product is now sold at a local store. "We want everyone in America to have curry for dinner," Eve said, "and we want them to have it once a week."

Emily Meko, 23, is founder and owner of Eat What’s Good, a vegan and gluten-free vendor of packaged and prepared foods. The company also provides consulting services, meal planning, catering, and menu development. The Ontario resident, a culinary student who has also studied food science and human nutrition, hopes to get people excited about organic, healthy food. “It's where healthy meets delicious, and getting away from the idea that healthy food has to taste institutionalized and boring,” she said. Meko’s products are already featured at a nearby wellness clinic as well as a yoga studio, and she hopes to continue expanding her range of vendors.

Benedict Mundele, 20, founded Surprise Tropicale, a food take-away and catering business, the idea for which she developed when she was in high school. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) resident started off by giving free breakfasts to members of the Kuvuna Foundation, an organization dedicated to sustainable development, leadership development, and support for entrepreneurs. Mundele, who is studying social communication at the Catholic University of Congo, said that although her country has plenty of fresh food, it is often exported, processed, and imported again where it is sold at higher prices. She wants to keep the DRC’s fresh food fresh and hopes to soon supply her foods to local supermarkets. Mundele is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper and will attend the World Economic Forum on Africa in Nigeria this year.

Ben Simon, 24, is executive director and a founding member of the Food Recovery Network (FRN), a network of college chapters whose mission is simple: direct surplus food from their campuses to hungry Americans instead of to landfills. The University of Maryland graduate started the program with several other students; now three years later, the organization boasts more than 95 chapters across 26 US states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico. Since 2011, FRN has donated more than 400,000 pounds of food, and Simon was awarded $10,000 by the Do Something campaign in 2013. FRN hopes to be on 150 campuses and have donated 610,000 pounds of food by May 2015. “An amazing amount of food gets thrown into a trash can,” Simon said. “It evokes a very innate response to jump to action.”

Remmi Smith, 14, has launched an online cooking show and a spin-off, published a cookbook, and had her products sold at Whole Foods—all before starting high school. The Tulsa, Oklahoma resident said her passion for food and cooking was sparked by the childhood obesity epidemic, and she hopes to inspire other kids to experiment with nutritious, tasty foods. Smith is also Sodexo’s student health and nutrition ambassador, participant in the Future Chefs program, and has given cooking demonstrations in front of Congress and the National School Board Association.

This article originally appeared at Food Tank, a think tank focused on feeding the world better. Food Tank researches and highlights environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty and creates networks of people, organizations, and content to push for food system change.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to 10 young people who are making food better
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today