August 12th is International Youth Day and this year it is dedicated to the theme of Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health. The day is a way to celebrate the efforts and achievements of young people already at the forefront of food systems change.
“When you’re thinking about the health of the next generation, if you want the population of your country to not emigrate, to be economically viable citizens, while also having a country that’s happy, and having an environment that’s sustainable and long lasting into the future, you really need to listen to young people,” U.N. Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) youth champion and Act4Food Act4Change campaigner Sophie Healy-Thow tells Food Tank.
To celebrate International Youth Day, Food Tank is highlighting 20 youth movements and organizations working towards a more just and sustainable food system. These young people are bringing about positive change to the food system by addressing issues such as Indigenous peoples’ rights, feminism, food sovereignty, food apartheid, urban agriculture, circular economies, and so much more.
1. Act4Food, Act4Change, Global
Act4Food Act4Change is a campaign giving young people around the world the chance to demand policymakers and businesses take action to reform food systems. They recently launched a pledge which young people and allies can sign to demand large-scale action. Youth can also vote for the actions they deem most important to food systems transformation. The campaign’s youth leaders will then deliver these actions at the U.N. Food Systems Summit (UNFSS), giving decision-makers clarity on the top priorities of young people.
2. Asia Indigenous Youth Platform, Asia
The Asia Indigenous Youth Platform (AIYP) was founded by the Asia Indigenous People’s Pact (AIPP) in collaboration with The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and The United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The organization is led by youth who work to protect Indigenous knowledge and languages, strengthen land rights and food security, and take part in decision making. The AIYP sets out to empower Indigenous youths from 14 Asian countries in fighting for their inherent rights and sovereignty.
3. Digo Bikas Institute, Nepal
The youth-led research and advocacy organization, Digo Bikas Institute (DBI) is based in Kathmandu, Nepal and promotes ecological sustainability and social equity. Their work highlights how economic growth and increased technological development imposed by the Global North is increasing Nepal’s carbon footprint and contributing to the breakdown of the countrys’ social and cultural fabric. DBI is interested in preserving the sustainable livelihoods of Nepalis and advocates that their knowledge can not only benefit people in the Global South but also contribute to systemic change in the North.
4. Food Wave Project, Europe
Food Wave Project is an European Union (EU) funded project connecting urban youth aged 15-35 with an international community of young sustainable food campaigners. The project draws a food-climate link and engages young people in campaigns to spread awareness around issues such as food waste. The project also gives young people influence over institutional decision-making, with the goal of working towards a fair and sustainable global food system by 2030.
5. The Food Recovery Network, U.S.
The Food Recovery Network began in 2011, when students at the University of Maryland sought to save wasted cafeteria food. In its first year, the group donated 30,000 meals to local food distribution charities. Today, this student-led movement fights food waste and hunger nationwide, and continues to mobilize young people to fight for food recovery in higher education institutions.
6. Green Africa Youth Organization, Africa
Founded in 2014, Green Africa Youth Organization (GAYO) is a youth-led and gender-balanced advocacy group focusing on environmental sustainability and community development. They are dedicated to developing a circular economy, disaster risk reduction, sustainable agriculture, and renewable energy activism. To achieve these goals, the movement focuses on research and providing solutions to pressing environmental issues through youth empowerment, skill development, and public education.
7. The HAPPY Org, U.S.
The HAPPY Org is a youth-founded and led organization providing engaging peer-to-peer learning experiences focused on health and happiness for 3rd-6th grade students. The organization believes in a holistic approach to education, identifying the need to nurture physical, mental and spiritual health to empower young people. Embodying this approach to health, their initiatives include nutrition and culinary summer camps, a virtual self-care camp, and wellness education during school visits.
8. Hawai’i Youth Food Council, Hawaii
In February 2020, a group of high school students from across the State of Hawai‘i launched the Hawai’i Youth Food Council (HYFC). Supported by the Hawai‘i Farm to School Hui and Hawai‘i Public Health Institute, the program seeks to engage youth in local food policy. It also aims to mobilize them to create healthy and local food systems in Hawai’i that encourage a connection with the ‘āina, or land.
9. Institute for Young Women’s Development, Zimbabwe
In Zimbabwe, young feminists can join the Institute for Young Women’s Development (IYWD), an organization, whose work is informed by the voices and experiences of young women in rural farming and mining communities. The Institute is committed to mobilizing and strengthening the voice and power of young women through capacity building around issues including human rights, equality, and entrepreneurship. They hope to help young women organize themselves, demand accountability, and become capable of transforming their lives through income generating activities.
10. National Young Farmers Coalition, U.S.
The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) is a network of young and beginning farmers, ranchers and consumers advocating for land and agricultural policy reform. Founded in 2009 by three young farmers, the NYFC fights to give youth support and resources to pursue sustainable agriculture in the U.S. Their network is comprised of regional chapters, each working to improve land access and affordability, fair labor practices, as well as promote diversity and cooperation between farmers.
11. Slow Food Youth Network, Global
Slow Food Youth Network (SFYN) is mobilizing young food enthusiasts, chefs, activists, students, and food producers around food issues in their communities. The movement provides young people with a network of like-minded individuals to discuss solutions to food security, food waste, sustainable food production and gastronomy. SFYN also encourages young people to host activities in their own regions, including their trademark event Disco Soup, in which attendees have a party and raise awareness around food systems change.
12. Sumatran Youth Food Movement, Sumatra
Sumatran Youth Food Movement (SYFM) is a community of young activists campaigning for food sovereignty in Sumatra. In 2014, students in Medan, North Sumatra, founded the movement over concerns of foreign investments in local agriculture. SYFM helps to educate and mobilize young people on land reform and the necessity of food sovereignty for the condition of state sovereignty.
13. YOUNGO, Global
YOUNGO – Children and Youth constituency to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – consists of youth-led organizations, groups, delegations, and individuals working in climate change-related fields. A current campaign within YOUNGO’s agriculture working group, Food@COP, calls for a plant-based menu at the upcoming UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP). These young people believe that food is critical for tackling the climate crisis, and that leaders at the COP should set an example with meals that are considerate of resource use, greenhouse emissions, biodiversity, and community impacts.
14. Youth Climate Save, Global
Youth Climate Save (YCS) is a movement and digital platform for young climate activists, created by a mother and daughter team in California. The initiative is a division of the Save Movement and focuses on the nexus between animal agriculture and climate change. Its activists also organize around a number of issues relating to veganism and climate change, including participating in the Fridays for Future movement.
15. Youth Feed India, India
Youth Feed India (YFI) is a non-profit organization and youth movement working to end hunger in India and empower impoverished and marginalized people to lead healthy, dignified, and self-reliant lives. During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, their team provided over 5.2 million meals to over 350,000 people. They also raise funds to support a variety of health and nutrition related campaigns, including feeding frontline healthcare workers. In the long term they hope to create sustainable jobs and employment opportunities for communities across India.
16. Youth Flame, U.K.
A grassroots movement of young land workers and activists, Youth Flame is fighting for climate justice and agroecology in U.K. food systems. They are a membership organization initiated through the Landworkers’ Alliance, the U.K. branch of La Via Campesina, and aims to encourage young people into food, farming and land work careers. Members attend educational workshops, and participate in campaigns, events, talks, workshops and festivals relating to sustainable food production.
17. Youth Food Movement, Australia
In Australia, Youth Food Movement (YFM) provides a space for young people to run food education projects for their peers. Encouraging their generation to become regenerative food producers and conscious consumers, YFM runs events centered on community growing and finding creative solutions to food waste and energy use. The organization hopes to heighten young people’s understanding of the challenges farmers face while teaching them how food is grown and transported and how to cook and eat healthfully and sustainably.
18. Youth Leaders for Nutrition, Global
The Youth Leaders for Nutrition (YLN) is a group of 13 young people from all around the world advocating for an end to malnutrition. Launched in 2018 by the SUN Civil Society Network, in partnership with Save the Children U.K., RESULTS U.K., and Global Citizen, the program aims to empower youth, primarily from countries with high rates of malnutrition. These youth leaders attend high profile events and forums, such as the U.N. General Assembly, and act as their generation’s advocates for improved nutrition policy.
19. Uprooted and Rising, U.S.
Uprooted and Rising is a network of student-led food justice groups and community-based groups organizing local and national campaigns for food sovereignty. It is a Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) led movement, uniting students, workers, faculty, food producers, and community members in the fight against corporate food systems in institutions of higher education. The movement uses public action, digital organizing, and creative storytelling to challenge the corporate food model. Their campaigns oppose the “sweetheart” deals between cafeterias on campus and Big Food corporations that lock out community food producers.
20. Young Agrarians, Canada
Since 2012, Young Agrarians (YA) has functioned as a farmer to farmer educational resource network for new and young farmers using ecological, organic, and regenerative farming practices in Canada. The volunteer-driven network comprises farmers from across the country and organizes events and creates spaces for knowledge sharing. They believe that it is their responsibility to care for and respond the land and the Earth’s natural resources.