NUS' Students Eats is a programme to support students with an interest in developing growing sites and sustainable food enterprises. Its aim – in a planet with depleting resources and in environmental crisis - is to embed sustainable food production in campuses, curricula and communities. Every year, Student Eats hosts a conference to give students the opportunity to increase their knowledge, skills and understanding in this vital area. And importantly, to share experiences and build capacity through networking.
The day began with an introduction by NUS Vice President for Society and Citizenship, Rob Young, who spoke about his pride in students taking local action on global issues. (And of course, his excitement to spend time with his nan in his hometown of Coventry!) After this we heard from Cath Hare, Programme Manager for Our Bright Future – Student Eats' funder – about the importance of students' grassroots organising for social justice and sustainability.
The conference welcomed an array of expert speakers and workshop facilitators. The morning sessions included a focus on technology and the future of food; developing ideas for enterprises; building relationships for start-ups; and money management. In the afternoon, delegates had a choice of workshops about turning food surplus into profit, scaling up enterprises, drinkable preserves and hydroponics.
After a lunch of vegan samosas, chana masala, vegetable curry, pakora and cupcakes (!), stuffed delegates regrouped to listen to a panel discussion entitled, 'Making the world a better place through food'. The pannellists discussed eating well on a tight budget, reducing our food's impact on climate, food's potential to unite communities, and how to educate people both formally and informally about the importance of sustainable food.
Finally, existing Student Eats enterprises had the opportunity to share their experiences – successes and challenges - in a 'world café' event. Together, participants worked on finding solutions to communications, engagement, business practice, and measuring impact. Students discussed, for example, the importance of developing sustainable food projects that truly inspired students, by tapping into their preexisting spaces and networks.
Thanks to everyone who attended; it was great to see so many students so driven to change the world through changing the food system.