between bites of avocado toast, millennials are changing the food system

For anyone living ‘down under’ or keenly observing the unraveling of a changing climate and the people trying to stop it, last week was an inspiring one. Understandably upset by the business-as-usual approach of inaction to the looming (and already occurring) threats brought about by global warming, thousands of students from all over Australia left class to protest – to demonstrate that they, as the future inhabitants of this world, care more about ecological and human survival than ‘jobs and growth’.

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Image Source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/30/the-school-climate-strike-was-a-new-generations-activism-and-im-so-proud

With students as young as 11 years old taking to the streets in some of most of Australia’s biggest cities, their cries and chants (while not always appreciated) certainly didn’t go unnoticed.

This all comes at a time where the impacts of climate change are being sorely experienced in Australia. Whether it’s the deadly flooding events taking place in Sydney or the catastrophic Queensland bushfire that has consumed tens of thousands of hectares and resulted in over 8,000 people being evacuated, the climate is changing and it’s the children in high school and primary school – not the children in parliament – who are trying to do something about it.

While many times it’s young people who are deemed the ‘ills of society’, the supposed Instagram-addicted, selfie-obsessed, disaffected youth might be just what we need to change the world.

When I was in my teens and early-20s, I prided myself on my sporadic volunteering efforts and being able to pack my own lunch. Here’s how today’s young people are doing much, much more—particularly when it comes to revamping our food system.

Sol Sips Vegan Bevs and Bites

Situated amongst the bustle of one of Brooklyn’s trendiest neighborhoods, this affordable vegan restaurant was started by someone young enough to be able to celebrate becoming a business owner by sipping on her first legal vegan cocktail. Francesca Chaney was only 21 when she somehow emerged from the rubble of three jobs and full-time study to open this initially pop-up restaurant. With an aim to provide healthy vegan food with prices to reach a clientele beyond the typical Lululemon-wearing stay-at-home-moms buying a $5.99 bottle of asparagus water at Whole Foods, Francesca has revolutionized who can take advantage of fresh, healthy food. With a sliding scale Saturday brunch, even financially disadvantaged populations can enjoy a non-judgemental space—and a delicious chickpea breakfast burrito.

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Image Source: https://bushwickdaily.com/bushwick/categories/food-and-drink/5325-sol-sips-becomes-permanent

Surprise Tropicale

Anyone whose parents used the “what about the starving kids in Africa?” argument when a pile of peas remained on their plate has at least some ideas of the food security struggles faced by millions in the continent. Good thing that Earth has another young changemaker to improve the lives of her community. Democratic Republic of Congo’s own Benedict Mundale didn’t accept the status quo of food poverty in her region and instead used her entrepreneurship to make a difference. Opening Surprise Tropicale at the ripe age of 16 was her way to promote healthy and sustainable organic foods to her Kinshasha community. Aware that many of DRC’s food products could be grown locally instead of expensively imported, Mundale has worked tirelessly to shift the perception that healthy and delicious foods didn’t have to come from outside of the country. Now selling an array of organic snacks and meals, Benedict is continuously learning and adapting her entrepreneurial strategies whilst being recognized globally for her transformative efforts.

Cook Time With Remmi

Remember the 16-year old typical diet of burgers and Doritos and Diet Coke? Well, that’s exactly what Remmi Smith is trying to change. Motivated by increasing rates of childhood obesity, the Tulsa, Oklahoma high schooler entered the food and nutrition world with her online cooking show, aimed at getting kids excited about creating healthy, nutritious meals. Smith is now is the proud author of The Healthy Teen Cookbook and serves as SODEXO’s health and nutrition student ambassador. Juggling appearances on local TV and the food network, and the development of a healthy snack Chef Club Box, Remmi just wants us all to remember C.H.E.F.—cook healthy, exercise frequently.

Luiz Antonio, the adorable Porteguese vegetarian toddler

When buying chicken nuggets or the accoutrements for a delicious roast dinner, we see perfectly cut slabs of protein, wrapped in sterile plastic containers and devoid of any wording or images that suggest that this feature of dinner ever existed as a living being beyond the confines of the grocery store. Maybe we need a reminder that our BLT is the product of something that died so that we could eat it. Luiz Antonio is the adorable child whose YouTube video went viral a few years ago when he questioned his mother about the octopus they were eating. This tear-jerker of a video may not convince steak enthusiasts to shift towards a plant-based diet, but it does remind us that we have a natural compassion for living beings and that sometimes, animals should be taken care of—not eaten.

BiJimini

Speaking of protein, there’s another 21-year-old we need to add to the list. While his views don’t exactly correlate with those of the adorable 3-year old in the video above, Luke Craven is concerned about the environmental and food security impacts of meat production. His dreams of BiJimini began in a university lecture and have resulted in the opening of the cricket-flour business along with Adam Gray. The realization of the minimal spatial and resource requirements of cricket farming provided an answer to Craven’s worries about a growing population, a deteriorating world in which to farm, and a need for protein. Their Power Flour is a low-carbon, low-water source of protein—more than twice as much as beef, in fact. A millennial who’s at the forefront of food of the future, we’re sure to see more like BiJimini.  

It’s all too easy to feel utter despair about the future of food and the world itself. Next time you start to feel down about the food system, just remember that instead of worrying about high school homecoming dances or Keeping Up With the Kardashians, there are young people out there who are changing things for the better—and many times better than adults. When it comes to the environmental, health, and food system issues we face today, the future may actually be brighter than we think.

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