Healthy Food Fellow, Eunice is Exploring the Intersection of the Arts and Social Impact

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In this blog series we are profiling our Net Impact Fellows; from healthy food to racial equity our fellows in this year-long leadership development program are working to better their campuses and their communities.

Meet Eunice

Eunice Lee is a Net Impact Healthy Food Fellow and student at Wesleyan University studying Science in Society. She, along with her classmates, are planning a play and dinner event that addresses food justice. Read on to learn more about this innovative and artistic way to discuss societal challenges.

Why did you first decide to take action around healthy food?

My passion for healthy food justice developed during my high school years. I attended a public high school that was in a community where lifestyles around food and health differed significantly from the low-income, Korean American community that I grew up in. In this community, healthy food such as organic fresh produce and an organic sushi restaurant were easily accessible and affordable to most residents. Around this time, I also happened to learn that my chronic kidney condition had been worsening partially because of my inadequate diet. Seeing the disparity in access to healthy food and the importance of having such access to one’s health, I felt the desire to raise greater awareness and to take actions around healthy food.

Can you tell us more about your action project?

I am collaborating with a group of students to work on a healthy food justice play, When We Can’t Tell What’s Human, devised by a Wesleyan University student, Eliza Wilkins. This play attempts to raise awareness about how the food system works and how it intersects with racism, classism, environmental issues, and labor and immigration rights. The plot is developed around the interaction between a Mexican immigrant cab driver and an upper class white woman. Their relationship highlights the disparity in access to healthy food and social agency. During the play, a three-course meal will be served to the audience, each course setting the stage for each scene.

After the play and dinner, a panel discussion will be followed to provide an opportunity for the audience to further discuss the aspects of the play that may have felt confusing, generalizing, or resonating with their personal experiences. Thanks to Net Impact and Newman’s Own Foundation providing me an opportunity to attend the 2016 Net Impact Conference and meet The Soulfull Project team, The Soulfull Project has kindly agreed to come to our campus as our panel speakers. We have also invited other guest professors and professionals who will share their expertise in the intersection of class, race, immigration rights, and food access.

This event is scheduled to take place in the evenings of April 27 – April 29.

How did you know this was the right project for you to work on?

When I first heard about this play idea from my friend, Eliza Wilkins, the playwright of When We Can’t Tell What’s Human, I was very confident that this was the right approach to talk about the broader issues surrounding healthy food access. Because performing arts and theater are central parts of our campus culture, I thought that this project would be the perfect platform to spark discussions about these issues that can be sensitive and very personal. Providing a three-course meal during the play also sounded appealing to the students on campus.

How has the experience shaped your future plans?

Although the arts and health related topics have been the main passion of mine, it was not until I became involved with this project that I found how powerful the intersection of the arts and public health could be! I am very interested in seeing how I can apply my interest in the arts and arts education into my passion in public health research.

Net Impact Fellow, Sarah is Providing Healthier Food Options in Rochester, New York.

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In this blog series we are profiling our Net Impact Fellows; from healthy food to racial equity our fellows in this year-long leadership development program are working to better their campuses and their communities.

Meet Sarah.

Sarah is a Net Impact Healthy Food Fellow and the Co-Founder of Oasis Foods, a social enterprise that provides affordable pre-prepared, frozen meals through vending machines, gas stations, and grocery stores in their local community.

Learn more of her journey to becoming an advocate for healthy food in her community.

Why did you first decide to take action around healthy food?

Oasis Foods was born from an Urban Entrepreneurship class at Simon Business School. My teammates and I were tasked with finding a business solution to the poverty plaguing Rochester, NY. We knew that lack of access to and education around healthy food was a huge issue in the urban areas of our city. We also knew that students faced limited healthy food options on campus, especially after hours. Our one-for-one model was born!

Can you tell us more about your action project?

Oasis Foods sells nutritious prepared frozen and refrigerated meals via vending machines. This allows us to access food deserts to provide a healthy food option where one doesn’t currently exist. We are currently in the middle of launching our pilot on the University of Rochester campus and the UR Medical Center.

How did you know this was the right project for you to work on?

We talked a lot with folks in the Rochester community about our project as we were developing it, and the problem really resonated with people. I knew the statistics were dramatic but seeing people express excitement and hope over our project was what really convinced me this needed to be done.

How does this fellowship differ from or complement your school coursework?

The fellowship allows me to meet and collaborate with students from outside my college, which is something that doesn’t happen as often as it should.

Have you thought about how your project could be continued after you’re finished with your fellowship?

Yes! The pilot will give us a sense of if they project could work at a larger scale. I’ll be moving to Detroit for my job after graduation, and I can just envision us opening a branch of Oasis there.

What is your biggest take away from the experience?

Don’t forget the resources right in front of you. The fellows are inspiring and the help that Net Impact has provided is amazing. The program is well structured and I feel supported throughout.

What advice would you give to someone launching their own project at school?

Just do it! It’s easy to get caught up in analysis and planning, but you learn the most by just getting out there and getting things done. And don’t be afraid to fail. Find support from your campus community and start with small-scale experiments so you can test new ideas with less risk.

How Can We Move Our Food Systems Toward a Carbon Neutral Supply Chain?

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Net Impact, in partnership with Monsanto, is launching an event series focused on moving our food systems toward a carbon neutral or carbon positive supply chain. Important themes for the event series include global food production, climate change, and the need to feed a growing world.

Groups of students and professionals are coming together around the world to share their ideas and generate potential solutions to address the inefficiencies in the food system. Net Impact helps fund each event and provides helpful toolkits and support. After each event, the chapter or group will select a top idea as their submission to the overall global food solutions competition.

“The Food Solutions Challenge is a great opportunity for our network to reconcile how to feed a growing planet with fewer natural resources while still maintaining the economic viability of food production,” said Megan Shea, Client Programs Senior Manager at Net Impact. “Net Impact members are the leaders of tomorrow and their diverse perspectives ensure creative, interdisciplinary thinking about how to solve this issue.”

By the end of March, 50 chapters and groups will have hosted a global food solutions events and submitted a potential winning solution. Events are currently underway and 9 events have already been held, including Net Impact Chapters from University of California, Davis, Texas State University, and Duke University. The discussions from these events have yielded interesting solutions ranging from electronic recycling tools to carbon neutral certification programs to sustainable enterprises.

This spring, the top 6 finalists will be announced and flown to a Net Impact Local Global Food Solutions Conference at the University of Wisconsin, Madison where they will present their potential solutions. They will be judged by a panel of experts and the grand prize winner will receive $5,000 for their chapter.

Meet Dejah – A Net Impact Fellow with a Vision for a Healthier and Greener Chicago

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The Net Impact Fellowship is a year-long leadership development program where students implement action projects on their campus or in their community.

This year’s cohorts of fellows are passionate and innovative emerging leaders activating around healthy food, racial equity, criminal justice, and impact design.

Dejah is a Healthy Food Fellow studying Environmental Science and Sustainability at Cornell University. Her passion for the environment and food solutions has inspired her to launch a sustainably ran organic school garden through her old elementary school this upcoming spring and summer.

Why did you first decide to take action around healthy food?

My personal enlightenment to break away from fast food chains and my interest in healthy food came from a sophomore year biology class in high school. A unit of our curriculum was spent reading Omnivore’s Dilemma and watching movies like King Corn and Food Inc. I was appalled by the treatment of chickens and cattle. I was disgusted at what really went into the chicken nuggets I causally dipped in barbecue sauce and ate at McDonalds. I was even so motivated by these movies that I went into my elementary school to give discussion on The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly of our nation’s food system. I soon realized that my education and desperate need to increase the public’s awareness could not stop with elementary school students.

Can you tell us more about your action project?

My action project is a smaller component of a larger vision that I have of urban agriculture and community and school gardens in Chicago. I am partnering with my elementary school to launch a sustainably ran organic school garden this upcoming spring and summer. The main event through the Net Impact Fellowship that I’m planning is a Community Food Day and Celebration to celebrate the beginning and building of the school garden.

How did you know this was the right project for you to work on?

I have always been interested in urban agriculture, specifically community farms and gardens.  Due to the creation of my organization, Get Them to the Green, and existing grant money that I had applied for, the project through Net Impact was a great transition into starting work with healthy food and urban gardening at my former elementary school.

What is something you learned from your fellowship experience that you weren’t expecting?

I was not expecting to connect with other people also interested in doing work within healthy food! It’s very inspiring to see the many ways that people are addressing the problem within their respective communities.

How has the experience shaped your future plans?

I definitely am considering working full on after college on helping spring up gardens and community farms across the city. I’d love to be an organizer, connecting people with the resources to make themselves food sufficient. With support from an organization such as Net Impact, I now find it possible to search for other fellowships and organizations that will support me in carrying out my vision of healthy food accessibility in Chicago.

How did you first hear about Net Impact?

I’m in the Cornell Sustainable Enterprise Association Club on campus and before attending the conference, saw the opportunity to be a Healthy Food Fellow.

What do you think is the most critical issue facing the world today?

Climate change is the most critical issue facing the world today. It intensifies and exacerbates many of the other pressing issues, including poverty, wars, and crime.

Raising the Bar for Social Enterprises with Adelante Shoes

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Adelante Shoe Co. is a socially responsible business that works with craftsmen in Central America to bring quality mens and womens shoes into America. Their mission is to “make it absolutely effortless to choose a socially responsible pair of shoes without compromising on quality, style, or price.” But for Adelante Shoe Co., it’s about so much more than just shoes. In fact, founder and CEO, Peter Sacco, has said that Adelante isn’t even really about shoes or fashion.

It’s about social impact.

They stand out because they have a unique business model – Adelante Shoe Co. pays their artisans enough to live well with their families, through a salary amount that their artisans define themselves. They also back their values with full transparency, financial and otherwise. Past models fail to integrate community input into social impact objectives, and often entire countries are given only one framework rather than accounting for regional and local differences in living standards.

This new standard, known as The Living Well Line, is a social impact model that balances development best practices with community input to define the cost of living well in any community worldwide. Peter Sacco is working to provide a non-profit certification for companies that pay their workers enough to consume the goods and services that they have identified as necessary to live well. His startup, called Living Well Inc., is targeted for companies that are in search of a simple, powerful way to pursue social responsibility.

Peter considers this the best way to promote economic development. One of his 2017 strategic goals is for Adelante Shoe Co. to become the first Living Well Certified company. And did we mention, Adelante Shoe Co. is the highest earning Guatemala-focused Kickstarter ever.

Of course, we cannot forget about the shoes.

Adelante shoes are handmade by craftsmen throughout Latin America, many who are second or even third generation shoe makers. They use quality leather and custom shoe lasts that ensure quality, comfort, and style.

Adelante Shoe Co. introduces a new business paradigm — one that prioritizes respect and responsibility over profit maximization. The company gives you the opportunity to take the first step toward impact and to own a pair of shoes that you can wear with pride.

Watch their story come to life:

Education for all or for some – and at what price?

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You could not have had two more diametrically opposed headlines these past days.  Betsy DeVos was confirmed (by an historic Vice Presidential tie-breaking vote) for Education Secretary, and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced that all SF residents are eligible for free community college starting in the Fall.

Betsy Devos swearing in ceremonyMs. DeVos’ s controversy stems from her large donations to the senators who voted for her and her apparent lack of fundamental knowledge and experience in public education in America. Ms. DeVos is a proponent of charter schools and vouchers. Only two Republican senators voted against her nomination – one was Ms. Murkowski who was influenced by thousands of messages from her constituents and the nominee’s lack of awareness of what actually is successful within the public schools, what is broken and how to fix them. However, Senator Lamar Alexander said Ms. DeVos had “led the most effective public school reform movement over the last few years”.

David E. Kirkland, an education professor at New York University who has studied Ms. DeVos’s impact in Michigan, said he feared she could hurt public education and pull resources out of schools in need of federal funding. We shall see what transpires.

Ed Lee announcing free college for SF residents.And at the other end of the spectrum was Mayor Ed Lee announcing that City College of San Francisco will be free of charge to all city residents. The city will also contribute $250 to full-time, low income students who already receive a state-funded fee waiver.  This will give them money to pay for books, transportation, school supplies etc.  Part-time students will also get $100 per semester. The city Supervisor likened the agreement to public schooling for K-12 saying that “City College would be free to all, too.”

Northwestern Chapter Event on EducationOur Net Impact chapters were busy addressing DeVos’s impact on education.  At Northwestern, the Net Impact chapter hosted three panelists to discuss why there is inequity within the education system and what can be done to alleviate it.

Despite concerns about the changing education environment, the panelists called on Northwestern students to take an active role in fighting education inequity by joining campus organizations and voting in local school board elections.

We encourage all our Net Impact members to take an active role in fighting for what they believe in.