We are happy to announce that this year’s competition theme will be “From Harvest to Table” (“De la Cosecha a la Mesa”). Our MESA student will create innovative solutions for clients in Oregon who bring food to our communities. This theme centers the needs of farmers, farmworkers, manufacturers, distributors, community organizers, and so many more food and agriculture professionals. Food is so important to our identity, our culture, and bringing people together. There is an incredible amount of work that happens in Oregon to produce and deliver the food we eat every day. From the farm workers who grow and harvest fresh produce to the manufacturers, to grocery stores workers who get those ingredients to our homes, to the restaurant workers and owners. Harvest to Table includes a very wide range of industries, human capital, and technologies. This could include; personal harvesting and growing, small community growing, gathering or farming, large-scale industrial farming, restaurants, food technology, food packaging, markets, and many other areas along the path of harvest to table. Through an interview with their client, students will discover a challenge their client experiences and will use invention to create a product to address that need. They will then pitch about their product at a series of community showcases (Demo Day) and competitions (MESA Day) throughout the school year. We are so excited to see what innovative ideas our students will work on this year!
Equity Above All
MESA’s mission to bridge the equity gap in stem fields is translated in the way we select our yearly theme. Issues of justice are at the center of the harvest to table pathway. Our agricultural and food systems are heavily influenced by socioeconomic factors such as racism, classism, ableism and sexism. Our students, historically underrepresented in STEM fields, bring diverse, necessary, and innovative perspectives to an industry still heavily marked by systemic inequity. Through a food justice lens, our students can address the ways food production and distribution has further oppressed underrepresented groups. More specifically, our students’ talent addresses issues such as food waste, food justice, food deserts, sustainability, urban gardens, and much more. Our diverse students bring their unique perspective to the industry and can offer experience-based STEM solutions for all.
Why Harvest to Table?
Our planet’s population is in constant growth, estimated to reach 10 billion people by 2050. To meet the needs of the global population we need engineers and scientists to develop solutions that are innovative and equitable. The agriculture sector alone contributes over $100 billion annually to the U.S. economy. There are over 50,000 jobs in agriculture available per year in the US and yet there are not enough qualified graduates to fill the positions (STEM Connector Food and Agriculture Edition). More than ever we need our youth to be empowered and prepared to step into the jobs of the future.
How can you engage?
Join our first MESA Talks of the year, centered on Food Access and Security, happening on October 28th at 6pm. MESA Talks is one of our main strategies for connecting different stakeholders in the STEM community (community partners, industry professionals, K-12 education, etc) on important social justice topics. For this event we will host a panel featuring Willie Chambers of NOLA Nuggitz, Jen Maynard of Zenger Farm, Equitable Giving Circle, Marcell Goss of Goss Mentoring and Everybody Eats PDX. Our community experts will share about inequities within food systems, and the work that MESA partners are doing to highlight and address these disparities within our communities.
Want to learn more about the need for equity in agriculture and food distribution? Check out some of these great organizations: