At Civil Eats, we often get inquiries from people across the U.S. who want to start volunteering or working in the food system, but aren’t entirely sure how–or where–to get their hands dirty.
The good news is there are myriad ways to make a meaningful impact, whether in your backyard or across the globe. You could join a local food policy council, start a petition on Change.org, write a blog, set up informational interviews with food system leaders, take an online course, join or start a community garden, or learn from others about how they got started. There are also several great organizations that we think are making a difference. Below, we’ve listed a number of groups from multiple sectors in the food system which regularly offer opportunities for people looking to become more involved, including volunteer and internship positions, entry-level jobs, and academic and vocational programs.
Agriculture and Land Conservation
- National Family Farm Coalition – NFFC represents family farmers and rural communities in the face of economic pressures and inequities. The organization regularly supports interns and volunteers who contribute to the organization’s work to protect and strengthen farmer livelihoods through communications, research, and policy analysis.
- National Young Farmers Coalition – NYFC is dedicated to ensuring that the next generation of farmers can grow food on ecologically vibrant, affordable land. The coalition offers internships in campaign development, blogging, and event planning.
- National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition – NSAC is “an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities.” The organization offers paid, full-time internships three times a year to work in their Policy and Grassroots departments.
- Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) – PANNA is one of five regional centers working to build an ecologically sound and socially just food system by eliminating the use of pesticides and hazardous chemicals in agriculture. The organization regularly supports volunteers and interns in developing skills in the nonprofit and advocacy sectors.
- Rodale Institute – Rodale Institute researches and promotes best practices in organic agriculture to farmers, scientists, and consumers, and advocates for policies that support farmers. The organization typically offers seasonal fellowships from early spring to late fall.
- World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF-USA) – WWOOF-USA offers workers the opportunity to connect with sustainable farmers across the U.S., exchanging labor for on-farm room and board.
- North East Workers on Organic Farms (NEWOOF) – NEWOOF is a regional farm apprenticeship placement service that facilitates connections between farms and workers in the Northeastern U.S.
Food Access and Food Justice
- The Food Trust – Based in Philadelphia, The Food Trust works to ensure that “everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food and information to make healthy decisions.” The organization regularly hosts student interns from a variety of backgrounds, including public health, social work, writing, nutrition education, business, tourism and hospitality, urban gardening, special events, community development, public policy, and urban studies.
- Food and Water Watch – Food and Water Watch is a national consumer advocacy organization that challenges the “corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources.” Internship opportunities are available three times a year to undergraduates, recent graduates, and graduate students.
- Food First – Food First is a think tank that advocates for policies that support a just, ecologically sound food system. Interns contribute to the organization through written work on issues related to food justice and food sovereignty, and many interns complete one or more publications.
- Slow Food USA – Slow Food USA supports a global food system that is good, clean, and fair for all. The organization has 170 local chapters and 40 campus chapters across the U.S. and aims to preserve food cultures, cultivate new leadership, and connect communities through food. Slow Food USA offers internships year-round in a range of fields, including development, policy and advocacy, and operations.
Education and Academia
- Agriculture Sustainability Institute at UC-Davis – Students majoring in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems (SA&FS) focus on the social, economic and environmental aspects of food and agriculture – from farm to table and beyond. (This is the only undergraduate major in the field)
- Berkeley Food Institute – BFI is an interdisciplinary institute at U.C. Berkeley designed to promote more resilient and just food systems, both on the local and global levels. BFI has over 75 affiliated faculty and staff on the U.C. Berkeley campus.
- Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture – CUESA offers education programs for urban eaters to learn more about local farmers and sustainable agriculture, and operates the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market in San Francisco. CUESA regularly posts opportunities for volunteers to develop skills in community education, communications, and outreach.
- Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UC-Santa Cruz – CASFS educational opportunities both on the farm and in the classroom. The program aims to increase “ecological sustainability and social justice in the food and agriculture system.”
- Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health – JHBSPH offers academic programs in health and behavior, public policy, and nutrition. The university also houses the Center for a Livable Future and the Global Center on Childhood Obesity.
- Marylhurst University Department of Food Systems and Society – Marylhurst has a Masters of Science program in food systems and society. The interdisciplinary curriculum focuses on equity, justice, and sustainability in our food system.
- NYU Steinhardt School Food Studies Program – NYU offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs in a range of issues across the food system, including public health and nutrition, food and culture, and public policy.
- Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy – Tufts’ food studies curriculum focuses on two main areas of study: Health and nutrition and food and agriculture policy.
- University of Vermont Farmer Training Program – Those aspiring to step into the field and begin farming can participate in UVM’s six-month beginning farmer training program. The course of study covers several topics in sustainable land management through hands-on, experiential learning.
- Yale University – Yale offers undergraduate courses and graduate programs in agrarian studies. The university also sponsors the Yale Sustainable Food Project and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture – USDA offers internship and career development opportunities for young people in high school, current undergraduate students, and recent college graduates. USDA also partners with organizations who offer stipends for students of color interested in pursuing unpaid internships with a federal agency.
- U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry – The Senate Ag Committee offers internships and fellowships in the spring, summer, and fall. Individuals with interest in agricultural-related policy are encouraged to apply. While all candidates will be given full consideration, preference is given to students, and also those whose permanent residence is the Chair or Ranking Member’s home states. In order to proceed in submitting an application, please select the office to which you are applying, the Democrat or Republican office of the Committee.
Hunger and Nutrition
- Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellowship – The Emerson National Hunger Fellows Program trains the next generation of anti-hunger leaders through a combination of community-based field and national policy work. Participants learn about a range of approaches to eliminate hunger, poverty, and social inequality (particularly racism), and develop skills in areas such as program development, research, evaluation, outreach, organizing, and advocacy.
- FoodCorps – FoodCorps is a year-long service program designed to promote healthy school food by educating children, building and maintaining school gardens, and bringing high-quality local food into public school cafeterias.
- Food Research and Action Center – FRAC is a research and advocacy organization that focuses on community, state, and national level solutions to eliminate hunger and under-nutrition across the U.S. The organization regularly hosts interns and volunteers to develop skills in research, writing, and advocacy.
- Hunger Volunteer – A project of New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH), Hunger Volunteer educates donors and the public about the impact of and solutions to hunger across the U.S. The program connects volunteers with anti-hunger organizations nationwide.
- Urban Nutrition Initiative – Based in Philadelphia, the UNI program provides paid internships in food education and urban agriculture to high school students during both the school year and the summer. UNI interns play a significant role in improving community food systems through participation in multiple regional and national networks and conferences.
- FairTrade – FairTrade certifies products sold in the U.S. as fair trade in order to promote sustainable, ethical entrepreneurship across the globe. The organization regularly offers internship opportunities that build participants’ skills in research and writing on international development.
- HelpX – HelpX includes listings for farms and ranches who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for room and board.
- Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellowship – The Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellows Program is a two-year program that builds fellows’ skills to eradicate hunger and poverty worldwide. Fellows spend the first year working directly to promote food security in the field, and the second year applying their experiences to develop sound national and international development policies.
- Oxfam America – Oxfam aims to end poverty and hunger worldwide by focusing on long-term solutions to injustice. There are several ways to get involved both in your local community and in the organization’s national offices in D.C. and Boston.
- World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) – WWOOF offers workers the opportunity to connect with sustainable farmers across the globe, exchanging labor for on-farm room and board.
Additional Resources, Job Sites, and Listservs
- COMFOOD Jobs – Allows individuals and organizations to post and search for jobs in the food and agriculture sectors. Based out of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
- Farm and Food Jobs – Connects job seekers and prospective employers in agriculture and food related industries across all steps along the food chain.
- Good Food Jobs – Help job seekers looking for meaningful food work find opportunities with farmers, restaurateurs, policy maker, economists, ecologists, and more.
- GFJ’s gastrognomes blog profiles food professionals across multiple sectors to highlight how people develop their careers in the food system.
- Backdoor Jobs
- Beginning Farmer Training Programs
- Farm-Based Education Network
- The Land Connection
- National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service
- National Young Farmers Coalition
- Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York
- Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
- Women Food and Agriculture Network
Have another great resource to share? Let us know!