2014 International Youth Food Culture Contest

As an avid enthusiast of food and culture as well as a strong believer of communication and collective wisdom, I often dreamed of organizing an event where students from different parts of the world come together to celebrate their passions in food and culinary arts and to share their thoughts on food, culture and life.

That ambition was put into action last year when I started to plan and develop the 2014 International Youth Food Culture Contest, the first international writing and art contest focusing on food culture for middle and high school students. After almost four months’ outreaching, campaigning, sponsorship-seeking, judging, and many more, I am thrilled to see the outpouring of support and interest from around the world. We have received submissions from middle and high school students around the world, celebrating their passions in food and culinary arts, sharing their reflections on the role of food on a specific culture, voicing their opinions about the impact of food in history and in today’s fast changing world, and expressing their desire for a better and healthier food environment. I am truly grateful that this contest has brought enlightenment, inspiration, and pride to so many peers around the world.

I’ve published the winners’ works on the contest web site at www.youth-food.org

With permissions from the authors, I am sharing the following inspiring and enlightening words from the submissions:

Food sees our turmoil and our triumph. The many experiences in life, whether they be the most simple routine or a wild adventure, all rely on the energy that food provides us with. If this is a fundamental concept, it is of utmost importance that we feed our bodies with healthy nourishment.” (Jessie Brandt, Sebastopol, California)

Food is something that can change a mood, create a feeling, or create a long lasting impression. It is not the food that shapes the culture, but all the memories associated with eating a food that does.” (Ida Annabel Polishchuk, Brooklyn, New York)

I don’t eat to live, I live to eat!”(Katherine Schug, Scotch Plains, New Jersey)

Food has the potential to be an influential wave. It is the bass of the music of life, it is our support. If we the youth spread our explored knowledge on nourishment, we are helping to begin the push. With energy and leadership, we have the ability to take a step toward the solution for a better food ecosystem. With a passionate drive I invite the youth of today to stir the pot of nutritious soup and begin the ripple.” (Jessie Brandt, Sebastopol, California)

I also want to share a wonderful moment I experienced in organizing this contest. Late last November, after countless hours of reaching out to youth communities and schools around the world via social media, I was exhausted. I was about to doubt my efforts when I received a message from the American School in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. It was from an American teenager who had lived in Mongolia for more than three years. Part of it read,

“Three years and 6,000 miles away from Virginia, your message reminds me of Thanksgiving turkey and apple pie. I feel closer to home.”

My heart was deeply touched. I knew I must continue, not just for my own aspiration, but for things much larger. I am glad I did.

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