This past year has been a journey. Since I learned about the Real Food Challenge at Meal Exchange’s 2015 National Student Food Summit, I tend to find myself lying in bed at night thinking about food systems. The Real Food Challenge is important for many reasons. It allows students to audit their school’s purchasing and improve food system transparency. It creates a common ground where students across Canada who are interested in food systems can join together and engage in a meaningful way. All of this is great. But perhaps the greatest part of this project is the personal growth it allows. While this growth is unquantifiable, it’s also unmistakable. The Real Food Challenge forces students to constantly question their values. While there are both joys and frustrations along the way, every experience is invaluable. It’s for this reason that the past year has truly been a tremendous journey.
The journey began when I wanted to make this a research course at McGill. While I knew so little at the time, I could already tell there was something special about the project. Therefore, I worked tirelessly with a professor to make this project a reality. The months devoted to preparing this research class, along with the research class itself, were some of the most tiring ones of my life. It was tiring for many reasons – I was orchestrating relationships between Meal Exchange, my class of nine students, and McGill Food Services throughout this whole process. As previously mentioned, it was also morally frustrating. Constantly questioning your values and beliefs is exhausting and only creates more questions.
Since this experience, I have been working on the Real Food Challenge even more. I obtained a summer position that allowed me to work with Meal Exchange to help develop the project, while also working with McGill Food Services to research more food in the cafeterias. These months have forced me to further question my values, and they have been quite strenuous. But throughout this whole journey, I have not regretted it for an instance. Researching food systems is like nothing else. The relationships formed and personal growth show me the process is worth it. To anyone interested in getting their hands dirty and learning more about this project: I would highly encourage it. No matter where this journey takes you, it will be worth it.