Addressing the problems facing our food system requires collaboration and the mobilization of people who are passionate about both food and the environment. Students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are taking steps to connect those who care about food, bringing them together through the MIT Food and Agriculture Club (FAC). The MIT FAC focuses on three main areas of outreach: at-home projects, ways to build a better food system on campus, and promoting awareness of solutions for issues concerning food.

MIT FAC students tour the Island Creek Oyster Farm.

The Food and Agriculture club often works alongside the MIT Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab (J-WAFS), a laboratory that develops eco-friendly technologies aimed towards evolving more stable sources of food and water. Founded in 2014, J-WAFS reflects MIT’s intentional institutional shift (running parallel to the FAC’s student-run operation) towards a more conscientious relationship with food and water systems. Together, the FAC and J-WAFS have organized an annual food and agribusiness innovation competition that funds Boson-based, student-developed agricultural technologies. The competition is sponsored by Rabobank, a Dutch multinational bank that seeks out finance opportunities in the food and agriculture sector. 2018 Innovation Prize winner EatWell produces quick, one pot meal kits that are intended for low-income families, making healthy eating and at-home cooking accessible for everyone. Other past winners include Cambridge Crops, a startup that designed an all-natural, edible coating for perishable foods, extending their shelf life while leaving minimal environmental impact. Through the Rabobank-MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize, students are not just encouraged to think creatively about food scarcity and agriculture, but they are also provided both the funding and business connections necessary to enact their solutions.

MIT alum Ayr Muir has founded a successful chain of sustainable, healthy fast food restaurants in the Boston area.

Beyond its annual innovation prize, the MIT FAC also works to connect current MIT students interested in food and agriculture with successful individuals from the food industry; past events hosted by the FAC—such as a presentation by Ayr Muir, CEO and founder of Clover, a sustainably run and healthy fast food chain—have allowed students to learn from and build professional relationships with people who have experience in pioneering the future of food. It is through opportunities such as these that the MIT Food and Agriculture Club encourages its students to develop their solutions to the obstacles within our food and agriculture systems, allowing them a space for critical analysis of how the way we eat and produce food must be changed.

This story is part of a larger Back to School series focused on how design students are self-organizing to address the complexities, opportunities, and failures of our food system.