Reflecting on the success of the Food Studies Project (FSP), I am happy to call ourselves “Food Entrepreneurs”. Less than year ago, I did not have a real understanding of what the word “entrepreneur” meant. Then, at the beginning of the Spring 2012 semester, I caught myself in front of a panel of judges at the Dell Social Innovation Challenge pitch stating that I am a “social entrepreneur” for food.
We, the undergraduate students, initiated some really neat programs and resources with no financial support. We did it because we are passionate about improving the world’s relationship with food. Some of us want to create businesses, some want to educate, and others want to simply share the joy of food. In my mind, all of these students taking the initiative to create websites, food carts, magazines and journals, food tours, gardens, and campaigns, are Food Entrepreneurs. As a graduating senior, my role now in Food Studies is to inspire these students to act and create their own amazing food projects and help them connect with others in UT Food Community.
So what does it take to innovate as a Food Entrepreneur?
To make a Food Entrepreneur, you first will have to learn how to deal with ambiguity. Things change so quickly and it can be scary navigating an unknown path. You must be willing to commit to the cause and be flexible to change because creating something new brings unpredictable results. The key is to be curious about the complexity of your project and never fear the unknown; make it your mission to enjoy the journey of learning and applying your studies. Prepare yourself for change because when you can move beyond your bias and old thought process, you will find a bounty of opportunities and connections.
1) STUDENT PASSION:
We have to sacrifice for belief in the outcome. UT students can become the next generation of food entrepreneurs. We must have intensity for things that matter: health, culture… College seems to promote individualism over collaboration, which is great for self-drive, but it is a flaw to believe we can tackle everything alone. We must unite all the food initiatives on campus and share our knowledge about food. Food Studies is interdependent. We connect and share ideas, help motivate and support each other to actively engage. Together we can beneficially impact our world food system.
2) ACTIVITY ENGAGEMENT:
Get involved. We all have different understandings of food, so it is difficult to appeal to all students’ tastes, but whatever your food studies interests are in, whether it is engineering, health, government, or the arts, we all must learn about the world we have created around food in order to improve the way we eat. Food Studies is the space for food leaders to come together to EAT, LEARN, and DISCUSS about our relationship with food and the world we have created around it. We must set big goals and build a community to challenge each other’s conceptions, share our food studies projects, and research. We are the immediate future; the time to act is now.
3) SUSTAINING MOMENTUM:
Food Studies receives wonderful fan mail from both professors and students. It is really rewarding to hear a freshmen mention that our Educated Eater program arose their consciousness about the relationship they have with food. Watching students engage in discussion about food systems, expanding their conceptions about food, and sharing their food culture has been such a rewarding experience. It was undergraduate students that started connecting the dots and built the foundations of an interdisciplinary food studies program at UT; we, the students, will create the demand for food studies at the University of Texas at Austin. However, faculty & staff have the power to create the actual academics, and it is their responsibility to keep the student voice involved in the conversation and decision-making. We are the next generation of food leaders; it is important to provide us with professional opportunities to apply our food studies and create the education we want.
As Student Food Entrepreneurs, our passion comes from our studies, our experience comes from actively improving initiatives on and around campus. In the Food Studies Project’s case, we have created the foundations of a food studies program at UT and helped bring together the UT Food Community. The project has led us to a new path full of opportunities to improve our food systems. Several of graduating seniors of FSP and I have introduced our new venture, The Food Lab. The Food Lab is a non-profit organization that will develop and support innovative businesses focused on reinventing our global food system. Meanwhile, we will continue to sustain the momentum of Food Studies at UT Austin. In order to tackle world food challenges, I believe college students are the first stage of the incubating solutions. They are the immediate future… full of passion and desire to change the world. Investing into their food education will produce new and improved attitudes towards food and make for the best Food Entrepreneurs.