Updated: Jun 6
Radcliffe Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts, August 2022
In early September, with the support of the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, I was fortunate to engage a group of diverse leaders and influencers in the plant-based movement who came from across the world to gather at Harvard and exchange ideas on the promising future of the plant-centric food system. Over two days, on Harvard’s beautiful campus, we indulged in plant-based food and identified and problem solved myriad institutional challenges and levers that will be necessary to catalyze a global plant based transitional movement spearheaded by students and young professionals, with an additional focus on specifically starting a movement on Harvard's campus. One takeaway I had is that the plant-based movement is small, yet incredibly potent! I left the event feeling validated, inspired, and energized by the future leaders who will ultimately be the vanguard of a food system fueled by plants. Please consider the following perspectives from leading experts that are valuable in forwarding a vision for a plant-centric food system, something I believe is very important to share with our larger plant futurist community to reflect upon.
Samantha Derrick ED, Founder, Plant Futures Initiative
"The Harvard Radcliffe workshops revealed the scope and importance of how we can come together to support young leaders at Harvard who want to transform our broken and unethical food system."
- Sparsha Saha, Lecturer (Ph.D.) at Department of Government, Harvard
“My key takeaway is that creating change at an institutional level and beyond will require all of us to put our brains together and to work on implementing multifaceted solutions. There is no catch-all approach. Only when we apply pressure across levels—students, faculty, administrators—and through various levers—campaigns, education, courses, research—can we truly make an impact"
- Navin Durbhakula, Undergraduate, Harvard College, Co-founder and President, Harvard Plant Futures
“The energy from the Harvard Radcliffe gathering signals that the next generation will treat animals with far more dignity than past generations.”
- Max Bazerman, Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School
“There is rapidly increasing student interest, across disciplines, in courses that help shift society to more sustainable, equitable, and plant-centric food systems. Consequently, educational institutions have an opportunity — and responsibility — to play a pivotal role in the transformation of food systems by introducing and expanding curriculum and learning opportunities — across a wide range of programs — to support this necessary and time-critical transition.” - Brittany Sartor, Program Manager, and Co-Instructor, Plant Futures Initiative
“At Plant Futures, we are building the bridge we need between talented students in academia and the opportunities in the plant-based sector, a pipeline that will have fruitful returns in sustaining our entire movement. Radcliffe gave us an extraordinary opportunity to bring the change-makers leading this charge at Harvard and beyond in one room—a rare gift—and as we all know following the pandemic, there’s a magic that happens in person that cannot be replicated on online platforms. The insights we shared there will continue to have reverberations in our organization and beyond for years to come.” - Nina Ghiehman, Director of Partnerships, Plant Futures Initiative
“The energy this small group of folks generated was amazing. The chemistry in the room allowed us to go deep into topics that folks might otherwise try to avoid on a video call. And the short time I spent with this new group of folks was enough to amplify my desire to work with and support them in future endeavors. Sharing, collaborating, bonding, and network building - we need to weave more of this into all of our internal and external work”. - Cynthia Bazan, Director of Operations, Plant Futures Initiative
“Plant Futures hosted a dynamic workshop at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute bringing together experts from across academia and business. Scaling ambition for food systems requires that we use our best current knowledge to tackle problems and stay oriented toward scaling big-picture missions pragmatically and rapidly. Our conversation stayed focused on that goal.” - Matt Hayek, Assistant Professor, New York University
"I was impressed and inspired by the students, who are envisioning a future where plants are the foods which we see, have access to, and enjoy as the center of our meals- if not the totality of our meals- as opposed to side dishes or “garnish on the plate”. They are correct and they will make this happen for the betterment of all.” - David Eiseinberg, Adjunct Associate Professor of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health
"It was really exciting to be in a room with other people who are energized about the plant-based movement. I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn from the unique perspectives that everyone shared and am hopeful that plant-based solutions can become integrated into Harvard's future." - Camille Freedman, Undergraduate, Harvard College & Co-founder, Harvard Plant Futures
“Students largely support plant-based options on campus, and there would be demand for vegan options if provided. We can use the Cool Food Pledge to nudge university departments that we interact with to make plant-forward food choices. Additional education on nutrition, food preparation, and health outcomes of plant-based diets would enable further support for plant-based options.” - Anita Chandrahas, Student, Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
“There's just no replacement for sitting in a room full of people who all share the same vision of a food system that's good for the human, animal, and planetary health! I left the workshop feeling optimistic about the potential for academic institutions like Harvard to center alternative proteins in their education and research agenda and make that vision a reality.” - Amy Huang, University Innovation Manager, The Good Food Institute
“Students largely support plant-based options on campus, and there would be demand for vegan options if provided. We can use the Cool Food Pledge to nudge university departments that we interact with to make plant-forward food choices. Additional education on nutrition, food preparation, and health outcomes of plant-based diets would enable further support for plant-based options.” - Anita Chandrahas, Student, Harvard College
I loved the workshop and think there should be more of them across the country!" - Rachel Atcheson, Senior Assistant to the Mayor at Office of the Mayor of New York City
“It has been an incredible opportunity to listen and share with practitioners in a small group setting, to reflect together on challenges and solutions, bringing into focus what is needed for the next steps, and how important it is to continue to build community and to invest in reinforcing the links and coordinating among actors that move at different levels and with agendas that can be shared.” - Mauro Morabito, Climate Change Course Designer and Coach