The Real Food Challenge: Research and Implementation Fellow

Apply here. (Applications due Friday, January 13, 2017)

Non-U.S. citizens are eligible to apply for this position.


Location: Cambridge, MA

Fellowship Position

Position title: Research and Implementation Fellow

Department: Real Food Challenge

Reports to: Director of Programs

Address of fellowship placement: 30 Bow St., Cambridge, MA 02138

Department Description

The Fellow’s work will be affiliated with our Real Food Challenge campaign. RFC’s mission is to harness the purchasing power of universities and the political power of youth to build a healthy, fair, and green food system. Launched six years ago by a coalition of students and staff at several organizations (including High Meadows Fellows at The Food Project), our goal is to shift $1 billion of college food purchases by 2020 away from industrial agriculture to local, fair, ecologicallysound, and humane sources. We do this by training and supporting students to run ‘real food campaigns’ on their campuses. This project remains Real Food Generation’s flagship campaign, with some new initiatives in the prelaunch or development phase.

Position Description

The Fellow will strengthen the capacity of the organization to generate and apply knowledge about food systems transformation. The primary way in which this happens within the RFC is by empowering college students to research their schools’ food purchases. By using our Real Food Calculator and by gaining access to their cafeterias’ invoices, thousands of student researchers on over a hundred campuses have been able to assess their institutions’ procurement patterns against our thoroughly researched, student-driven ‘real food standards’ (involving four criteria: Local & Community- Based; Fair; Ecologically-sound; Humane).

In addition to providing technical assistance to these student researchers, the Fellow will advance 1-2 related projects in response to the needs and opportunities that are emerging. Those projects might make use of this enormous data set we are building to improve the internal work of implementing Real Food Campus Commitments. Or, they might be structured to meet the needs of our external grassroots partners or our supporters and broader public. In any case, the overall thrust of this position is to maximize our potential to apply cutting edge research to our social justice mission.

Examples of specific responsibilities, projects, tasks, and/or duties of the Fellow include:

PRIMARY: Support Real Food Calculator Student Researchers

  • Train and support student researchers in the Calculator process: conduct orientations for each cohort, answer questions from students, hold weekly (virtual) office hours
  • Develop and create Calculator researcher tutorials and support resources
  • Support students to negotiate with dining staff, research companies and enter data throughout their work on the Calculator Assessment
  • Conduct exit interviews for Calculator research teams
  • Track active Real Food Calculator Assessments and contacts

SECONDARY: 1-2 Related Projects, To Be Determined based on the needs and opportunities at that time. We won’t know that exactly until next summer, but the following examples will give a sense of the possibilities:

  • Develop resources to support targeted product shifts (e.g., to increase sourcing of fair trade bananas, community-based seafood operations, high-bar organics, dairy cooperatives with high labor standards)
  • Coordinate studies with our academic partners to assess impact or advance the research needed to launch a new campaign 
  • Develop insightful infographics around our data and key food systems controversies to support our Communications agenda


Someone in this position should:

  • Have a comfort with numbers and spreadsheets
  • Have at least a basic knowledge of the food system (through coursework, extracurricular activity or other means)
  • Be organized and responsive with email communication 
  • Be a strong researcher and enjoy investigation
  • Thrive working in support of others, including most who are far away (our student researchers are spread around the country)
  • Want to work in an organization committed to racial and social justice

The following experiences are helpful (but not pre-requisite):

  • Coursework in economics and/or environmental science
  • Experience in community organizing or campaigns (on or off-campus)
  • Interest in and experience with communications (graphic design, video production, social media).

Professional Development

The Fellow would be eligible to participate in Organizing training, the year-long curriculum offered to our part-time Regional Field Organizers (who are also recent college graduates). This is opportunity will also ground the Fellow in our core methods and philosophy and help to develop a peer group in the wider organization. This program is on hiatus during this program year while we refine our long-term campaign plans, and is likely -- although not 100% certain -- to return in the Fall of 2017.

There may also be an opportunity to take one course in Green Mountain College’s Master’s in Sustainable Food System, which is a distance program that we have partnered with in the past and may do so again next year. It can be a lowcost, low-risk way to sample grad programs or distance learning.