Forget Table Manners: Hacking Food with the Newman's Own Foundation Challenge | Net Impact

Forget Table Manners: Hacking Food with the Newman's Own Foundation Challenge

FoodInno students at the TCHO Hackathon
FoodInno students at the TCHO Hackathon

Marketing is not just left to the suits behind closed doors and hackathons are not just for software developers and computer programmers looking to fund the next great startup. At least, that’s the take-away that led UC Berkeley students, Cindy Ma, Victoria Jing, Agnes Zhu and Hailey Zhou to join the Newman’s Own Foundation Challenge and start their campus-based club FoodInno. As the group’s mission says: “We provide students with the opportunity to 

work alongside food companies to solve their challenges by tapping into the minds of young millennials.”

Food Innovation Hackathons

The club members’ passion for food and innovation was showcased during their first event, a hackathon with the Berkeley-based chocolatier, TCHO. Thirty students toured the company's headquarters then broke into teams and got to work. They had three hours to come up with a new flavor for the company’s Limited Edition Line; describe their new product, as well as how it would fill a hole in the chocolate market; write a “flavor-forward marketing description” for this product and finally, draft a design for packaging. When they were finished, a 10-person panel of mentors judged their work.

Student-Led Classes

FoodInno isn’t just committed to helping students in their careers, but to educating them about food issues around the globe.  The group offers student-run courses called DeCals, which tackle topics from food labor practices to food labeling to food waste. They even invited local business leaders and educators classes to talk about possible solutions.  The most recent DeCal class was all about fermentation: a how-to on making yogurt, cheese, and coffee and discussions about why fermentation is nutritionally important for the body and culturally important in the world.

With help from Newman's Own Foundation and Net Impact

The FoodInno team joined the Newman's Own Foundation Challenge because of the connection it provides with industry experts.  Cindy says, "The Challenge is a great way for us to get an outside opinion on our work and gain insight from more experienced innovators."  The team sees the Challenge as an opportunity to bring their club to a wider audience and to inspire more and more people along the way.  Cindy and Victoria pointed out the benefits for students who join the club are many: make an impact on the food system; connect with local food businesses; learn more about the design and business process; gain leadership skills; meet other like-minded individuals; and, oh yeah, “Eat lots and lots of YUMMY food.”


Meeting the challenges of our food systems will require innovative and sustainable solutions. That’s why Net Impact together with Newman’s Own Foundation has launched the Newman’s Own Foundation Challenge, where our goal is to educate and support young leaders to impact nutrition outcomes on campus and in their communities in the short-term, and equip and inspire them to be nutrition advocates over their longer-term careers. Watch our interviews with food and nutrition experts here.