Friends For Life

Real food fellowship

Ashley Xie and Lena Miller went to New York City to attend the People’s Climate March in September 2014

Image caption: Ashley Xie and Lena Miller went to New York City to attend the People’s Climate March in September 2014

Credit: Photograph courtesy of Ashley Xie

A Hopkins education in Environmental Science and Studies raised Noah Erwin's awareness of the impact food systems have on our environment.

Today, Erwin, A&S '16, farm manager of North Mountain Pastures, a small-scale pig, sheep, and turkey farm northwest of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is working to raise animals in a way that's "good for them, good for humans, and good for the environment."

Growing up in East Tennessee, his family always had a small garden. "So I was food-aware," Erwin says. But it wasn't until he joined Real Food Hopkins as an undergraduate that he found a way to address climate change on an everyday basis, through food, with like-minded students—some of whom continue to network as alumni.

Real Food Hopkins is a student-run chapter of the national Real Food Challenge movement, working for a more just and sustainable food system. The chapter's food advocacy and awareness projects include working with Hopkins Dining to make product shifts toward food that is local, ecologically sound, humane, or fair, and maintaining a sustainable campus garden.

Ashley Xie, A&S '15, was born to Chinese immigrants and developed a passion for food in the restaurant her mother owned in Los Angeles. At Hopkins, Xie studied natural sciences. But she never lost her passion for food.

"I joined all the food clubs at Hopkins," Xie says, including Real Food Hopkins, where she met Erwin. She was impressed with the chapter's activism through events, such as the 100 Mile Meal, featuring an all-local meal planned and prepared by students. "At Hopkins, I had a community of other students who had an interest not just in eating food but in advocating for sustainable food systems," she says.

After graduation, Xie tapped her Hopkins network and took a job with Meadow Lark Farm Dinners, in Boulder, Colorado, now owned and operated by Lena Miller, A&S '15. Xie co-founded Rooted Fare, a modern Chinese American pantry staples startup, in 2020. New to entrepreneurship, she reached out to her Hopkins friends. "The supportive food community was still there," Xie says.

Miller credits flexible faculty and good friends for helping her find her way to Meadow Lark, where she works with small farms to host dinners that increase engagement and highlight regional and seasonal eating. As a student, she designed a food systems course that was later implemented. She and her roommates cooked vegetables from a local farm in their dorm kitchen, which was where she also helped prepare a 100 Mile Meal for Real Food Hopkins, alongside Erwin and Xie.

"Being allowed to focus my education on food and community was amazing," she says.

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