Kitchen Table Talks: Next Gen Food Activists | Civil Eats

Kitchen Table Talks: Next Gen Food Activists

Food is the pulse of the millennial generation as thousands of young people are propelling the new good food movement forward by planting the seeds of a more just and sustainable food system. Across the country, students are activating for social change on campuses, while hundreds of new farmers and gardeners are digging into neighborhoods, and innovative food ventures are sprouting up. Come meet some of the best and brightest of these young food activists on Tuesday, May 3, as Kitchen Table Talks, in conjunction with UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism, hosts a lively discussion with some of the leading youth voices whose mandate is food.

Joining us in conversation will be:

Nikhil Arora is a former Hass School of Business graduate and the co-founder of Back to the Roots, which produces grow-at-home mushroom kits grown from recycled coffee grounds. On pace to collect and divert over one million pounds of coffee grounds this year, it recently launched in 250 Whole Foods nationwide and can be found at Peet’s Coffee, as well as other natural food markets. Back to the Roots has helped sustain 10 urban schools gardens by donating their premium soil amendment.

James Berk is an owner-worker at Mandela Foods Cooperative (a program of Mandela Marketplace) a locally-owned and operated full-service grocery store and nutrition education center located in West Oakland, a community long underserved in grocery retail. Berk also does youth empowerment work with West Oakland Youth Standing Empowered and works with the Healthy Neighborhood Stores Alliance, which focuses on getting nutritious food and positive businesses practices into convenience stores. He has been honored for his work with the Robert Redford Center’s The Art of Activism award.

Yonatan Landau is the co-founder and director of the Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFed), a network, training program, and research institute that helps students create sustainable food cooperatives on their campuses. Before his current gig, he launched a successful campaign to prevent the first fast food chain from opening at UC Berkeley and helped raise over $120,000 for a cooperative alternative, the Berkeley Student Food Collective.

Samin Nosrat creates community around food with her varied endeavors as a cook, teacher, writer, and accidental activist. Since Eccolo, a restaurant she helped run, closed in 2009, she has tirelessly questioned and experimented with what it means to be a professional cook. She is known for the Pop-Up General Store, Tartine Afterhours dinners, Home Ec Cooking Classes, and the most recently successful Bakesale for Japan. At the heart of all of her work lies the fundamental belief in the power of food to create meaningful connection.

newsmatch banner 2022

Hải Võ organizes with Live Real, a new initiative building community with youth across the country around food cultures and policies based on respect for ourselves, each other, and the Earth, and is currently recruiting Real Food Fellows as part of the initiative.  A member of the California Food and Justice Coalition, he is helping coordinate community activities for the Community Food Security Conference this November in Oakland.  Vo has organized and participated in youth-led food justice initiatives, including the Real Food Challenge, California Student Sustainability Coalition, and the Student Farmworker Alliance.

Haleh Zandi is a co-founder, permaculture landscaper, and community organizer with Planting Justice, a non-profit organization based in Oakland, CA dedicated to food justice, economic justice, and sustainable local food systems. She strives to implement notions of human rights into practice by taking back public spaces so that every community, within Oakland and to Tehran, has access and sovereignty over affordable, nutritious food.

When: Tuesday, May 3 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

We’ll bring the news to you.

Get the weekly Civil Eats newsletter, delivered to your inbox.

Where: UC Berkeley School of Journalism, Room 105, Northgate Hall, Berkeley, CA

This event is free and open to public. Space is limited, so please RSVP with consideration.

Kitchen Table Talks is a joint venture of CivilEats and 18 Reasons, a non-profit that promotes conversation between its San Francisco Mission neighborhood and the people who feed them. Food generously donated by Gather Restaurant.

Today’s food system is complex.

Invest in nonprofit journalism that tells the whole story.

Naomi Starkman is the founder and editor-in-chief of Civil Eats. She was a 2016 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford and co-founded the Food & Environment Reporting Network. Naomi has worked as a media consultant at Newsweek, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, GQ, WIRED, and Consumer Reports magazines. After graduating from law school, she served as the Deputy Executive Director of the City of San Francisco’s Ethics Commission. Naomi is an avid organic gardener, having worked on several farms.  Read more >

Like the story?
Join the conversation.

  1. It is empowering to see the younger generation get actively involved in such an important discussion!

More from

Kitchen Table Talks


Ann Tenakhongva, 62, and her husband, Clark Tenakhongva, 65, sort traditional Hopi Corn at their home on First Mesa on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona on September 28, 2022. The corn comes from the families’ field in the valley between First Mesa and Second Mesa, which Clark had just harvested. The corn is organized on racks to dry out and then stored in cans and bins for years to come. Much of the corn is ground up for food and ceremonial purposes. Corn is an integral part of Hopi culture and spirituality. (Photo by David Wallace)

Climate-Driven Drought Is Stressing the Hopi Tribe’s Foods and Traditions

Most Hopi grow corn with only the precipitation that falls on their fields, but two decades of drought have some of them testing the waters of irrigation and hoping they can preserve other customs with their harvests.


A Young Oyster Farmer Carrying on the Family Business

Gaby Zlotkowsky on a boat holding a basket of oysters. (Photo credit: Capshore Photography)

Young People Working for Food Justice in North Carolina


Young Fishermen Are Struggling to Stay Afloat

Lucas Raymond holding a halibut. (Photo courtesy of the New England Young Fishermen's Alliance)

This Mother-Daughter Team Is Sharing Food Traditions from the Ho-Chunk Nation

Elena Terry, (left) and Zoe Fess smile after showcasing Seedy SassSquash, a signature family dish, during the Smithsonian’s