The FINAL application deadline for the 2015-2016 Real Food Challenge Fellowship is this Sunday, 3/8 --- please get applications in, and spread the word!

Real Food Challenge is currently accepting applications for the 2015-2016 Fellowship Program - an intentional, experiential opportunity to develop organizing and leadership skills with a national student movement organizing for a just, resilient, community-based ('real') food system. 

The Final Application Deadline is Sunday, March 22nd.*

Email [log in to unmask] with any questions.

Fellowship Overview

The Real Food Challenge Fellowship Program is a unique opportunity to gain first-hand experience in building a social movement. Through this 14-month program, Fellows engage in intensive projects on a regional or national level while also honing their leadership skills and food systems knowledge through our participatory learning curriculum and engaged Fellowship community.

Fellows come away with direct campaign and organizational experience, new professional and movement networks, and a toolbox of relevant movement-building and organizational skills.  At the same time, they support important student-led efforts to shift millions of university dollars away from industrial agriculture and toward just, sustainable food enterprises.

Fellowship Project

Over the years, the Fellowship has evolved based on the growth and needs of RFC campaigns, and reflection and evaluation from each Fellowship class. This year’s Fellows focus on projects relating to building the college and university movement for a real food system.

These may include:

  • Providing direct coaching, training, and on-the-ground organizing support to student leaders at a small group of campuses where real food campaigns are in progress
  • Event-planning for regional and national gatherings and fundraising events
  • Participating in the national campaign launch and organizing for the next phase in RFC’s campaign
  • Helping to develop the Real Food Calculator and providing support to students involved with assessments
  • Developing & executing national Social Media & Communications strategies

Through these projects, Fellows will be given a level of exposure and responsibility usually reserved for experienced professional organizers and movement leaders. Fellows will be expected to take a significant amount of initiative, problem-solve on the fly, and work with a diverse, and often geographically-distributed team.

What does it look like? Phone calls or video-chats with student teams multiple times a week about campaign plans and organizing efforts. Team meetings with other Fellows and staff to collaborate on focus projects, and strategize and prioritize work. Once- or twice-a-year coordination of road trips to visit target schools, facilitate workshops, and meet with key players. And plenty more!


As part of the Fellowship, the Real Food Challenge is committed to Fellows’ growth and development. Our curriculum is explicitly action-oriented and participatory in approach. This means Fellows’ projects are seen as the core “textbook” for their learning. Other curricular pieces are meant to intersect with and enhance that learning-by-doing experience. These supplemental learning opportunities include:

·      Intensive in-person, experiential workshops and trainings
·      Regular distance learning sessions, including webinars and online discussions
·      Reading & writing assignments
·      “Just-in-time” mini-trainings on necessary and timely skill sets
·      Periodic self-assessment, peer-evaluation and reflection exercises

·      Intensive coaching from a coordinator

Learning modules are broken, roughly, into two categories: 1) Organizing and Leadership and, 2) Food Systems.  Topics covered include the following (with some variation year-to-year).

Leadership and Organizing

Food Systems

-Storytelling & Public Narrative
-1-to-1s / Relational Meetings
-Social Media & Communications
-Grassroots Fundraising
-Campaign Planning
-Facilitation and Popular Education
-Leadership Development
-Coaching and Agitation
-The Corporate Food Service Industry
-Farm-to-Institution Basics
-Distribution and Supply Chains
-Food & Labor Intersections
-Fair Trade, Direct Trade
-History of Food Movements

Year-long Schedule

The Fellowship runs from July 2015 - August 2016, a total of 14 months.  While each Fellow’s experience will be unique, an average year includes these major milestones:

  • July: National Training—Fellows join RFC staff for a comprehensive 5-day orientation and training
  • August/September: Regional Strategy Retreats or Road Trips—Fellows work with RFC staff and alumni to lead a 3-day leadership institute for local students
  • October: Food Day—Fellows support student leaders in plans for this national day of action
  • December: Winter Appeal—Fellows learn about grassroots fundraising through our holiday fundraising drive
  • January-February: National Summit—Fellows recruit for and facilitate workshops at our national gathering
  • May: National Retreat—Fellows engage in the reflection and annual planning process with RFC leadership
  • Ongoing: Campus Visits and Road Trips--Fellows coordinate and participate in road trips to campuses throughout region

Program Structure & Support

Fellows work in teams of two or more and are supervised by a member of staff. Regional teams have at least once-weekly check-in meetings. All fellows gather for monthly discussions, in addition to periodic online distance learning modules. Twice a year, fellows engage in structured peer feedback sessions called “Real Talk.” Fellows also engage in a Quarterly Review process, focused both on campaign outcomes and Fellows’ personal development goals.  


In addition to the skills and experience offered, fellows are provided a $2,000 stipend in installments of $1,000 at the end of each semester. Fellows are also reimbursed for all pre-approved Fellowship-related expenses and travel. 

Graduate Program Opportunity

Fellows have the opportunity to participate in an interdisciplinary, distance-based graduate program through Green Mountain College (Poultney, VT), which is a respected leader in environmental education and sustainable food systems. 

Who We're Looking For

Real Food Challenge seeks a special type of young leader who’s ready to make a big impact on the world. Our Fellows generally exhibit the following qualities:

  • Self-motivated – Fellowswork independently and remotely without constant prods or reminders. They take initiative to address problems as they arise and share new ideas and learnings along the way.
  • Passionate – Fellows understand the urgent need for change in our food system and are able to motivate those around them.
  • Relational – Fellows have strong people-skills, are good at relationship building and have a good sense of humor.
  • Strategic – Fellows have the ability to identify and prioritize goals and think systematically about how to accomplish them.
  • Self-aware – Fellows are committed to their own learning and able to reflect on and learn from their experience.


This fellowship is intended for people with prior experience in student activism, food justice or other movement work, who want to take their learning to the next level.  Fellows are usually recent college graduates, but others are welcome to apply. 
  • Ability to devote 15 hours per week to Real Food Challenge activities
  • Ability to attend 5-day Summer Orientation (dates TBD)
  • Ability to attend 3-4 additional multi-day events throughout the year (campus visits, strategy retreats)
  • Experience with student activism and/or student-run groups preferred
  • Commitment to economic justice, anti-racism, student power and social movements
  • Experience with group facilitation, teaching, public speaking, and networking
  • Familiarity with online communication (Google Drive, Google Hangouts/Skype, webinars, Dropbox) and social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) encouraged.
  • Experience with university food systems, food service work, community-based farms, fair trade cooperatives, regional food distribution or other real food issues is a plus. 

>> We strongly encourage people of color; queer, trans, and gender variant folk; and working class activists to apply!

Past Fellow Testimonials

The Real Food Challenge is an incredibly dedicated, nurturing, and inspirational group of people, and I've learned so much in my time as an RFO.  This work is really important and challenging, and I would highly recommend it for an aspiring organizer who wants to sink their teeth into a strategic, relationship-based, national campaign for food justice.

    - Jon Berger, Mid-Atlantic Field Organizer, Class of 2012

With RFC, I built strong friendships and gained important professional connections.  I learned skills that help me as a community activist today - how to facilitate meetings, plan events, collaborate and communicate. I left feeling confident that we can change the food system.

    - Sue DeBlieck, Midwest Field Organizer, Class of 2009

The three words that best describe my RFO experience are connection, challenge, and mentorship. Before RFC I had been active in several environmental groups where I had felt disconnected and disempowered. In RFC, however, I found hundreds of other students just like me, connected to the food wheel by different spokes but all sharing the same central purpose. I was challenged to build new skills, such as organizing a network, planning and executing large events, and training other students. Most of all, the RFO experience provided mentorship: the reflection and constructive feedback processes enabled powerful personal growth in skills and character.

    - Melissa Tinling, Southeast Field Organizer, Class of 2011

Click here for the 2015-2016 Fellowship application

The Final Application Deadline is Sunday, March 22nd. 

Katie Blanchard
Regional Coordinator - Real Food Challenge || (c) 231-881-1768