AMHERST, Mass. – University of Massachusetts Amherst senior Hannah Weinronk of Lexington, Mass., a public health sciences major with a concentration in food systems, was part of a three-person Real Food Challenge (RFC) team that recently won first place and $75,000 from the unite4:good foundation’s national unite4:inspiration competition.
Weinronk and two other RFC national steering committee members, Sunny Kim of Johns Hopkins University and Stephanie Yee of California State University Monterey, Bay, competed against four other teams from across the country to gather votes from supporters in two rounds of online balloting over several months. Winners were announced in mid-February during the unite4:humanity gala in Los Angeles.
RFC enlists the power of youth and universities in trying to create a healthy, fair and green food system. Its primary campaign is to shift $1 billion of university food purchasing to “real food” by the year 2020, which means food that is local/community based, ecologically sound, fair and/or humane, while nurturing a national network of student food activists.
Weinronk, who has been involved with the Real Food Challenge at UMass Amherst and on a national level for nearly three years, says the win is “so exciting! We had over 1,000 people voting for us every day, from the East Coast to the West Coast.” She adds, “RFC is a powerful national network making real change in the food system. To be one of three students representing RFC, and then to win $75,000 to help support all of this amazing student organizing happening across the country, is an incredible honor.”
In May 2013, responding to a student-led campaign, UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy signed the Real Food Campus Commitment, pledging the campus to source 20 percent real food for its dining program by the year 2020. Also in 2013, with a grant from the Henry P. Kendall Foundation in Boston, the campus began an initiative to transform its Hampshire Dining Commons into a national model for campus wellness and sustainability.
Since then, RFC students and UMass Dining Services have been working to implement this commitment and reach its goals over the next five years. As a student representative on the RFC national steering committee, Weinronk is also excited to see how the $75,000 prize will strengthen RFC as a national movement.
After graduating with her MPH degree in 2016, Weinronk plans to continue doing food systems work, which might include improving community access to healthy and culturally appropriate food, making change in school food for children in K-12, or advocating for farm worker rights, for example. “I’m interested in engaging with all aspects of our food system, and continuing to push for change.”
The unite4:good foundation was created in 2013 by philanthropist Anthony Melikhov “to inspire humanity to incorporate more acts of kindness into their daily lives.” Each month from June-Dec. 2014, the foundation asked its partners to nominate “amazing individuals who are furthering their missions on the ground.”