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Planting the Future: How Samantha Derrick is Cultivating a New Generation of Plant-Based Leaders



In the latest episode of the Plant Based On Fire podcast, we were privileged to feature Samantha Derrick, the visionary behind the Plant Futures Initiative. Samantha, a beacon of inspiration in the plant-based movement, shared her journey from a passionate advocate for animal rights and plant-based eating to founding an organization that is reshaping the future of food systems through education.


From her early days of activism to her academic pursuits at UC Berkeley, Samantha's path was shaped by a profound commitment to addressing the interconnected issues of animal welfare, public health, and environmental sustainability. Her realization of the lack of focus on plant-centric food systems within academic curricula propelled her to establish the Plant Futures Initiative, an academic course and global student movement dedicated to accelerating the transition to a more sustainable and ethical food system.


The initiative's inception, rooted in Samantha's personal mission and bolstered by the support of mentors and fellow students, rapidly evolved from a class project into a comprehensive program that has gained traction across numerous universities. It bridges the gap between education and industry, offering students unique opportunities to engage directly with companies in the plant-based sector through applied learning projects. This innovative approach not only prepares students for values-aligned careers but also serves as a talent pipeline for the burgeoning plant-based industry.


Samantha's work is a testament to the power of education as a catalyst for change. The Plant Futures Initiative's expansion to over 40 campuses worldwide is a clear indicator of the growing interest among students from diverse academic backgrounds in contributing to a sustainable food future. Moreover, the initiative's efforts to enhance plant-based options in university dining services underscore the holistic approach needed to foster a plant-centric culture.


Samantha Derrick's vision for the Plant Futures Initiative is nothing short of revolutionary. By creating a global ecosystem of students, professionals, and faculty committed to advancing plant-based solutions, she is laying the groundwork for a future where plant-centric eating is the norm. Her story is not just inspiring; it's a call to action for anyone looking to make a difference in the world through the power of plants.


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>Episode’s Transcript

Please understand that a transcription service provided the transcript below. It undoubtedly contains errors that invariably take place in voice transcriptions.


Bryan (00:05.246)

Hello everybody and welcome to Plant Based on Fire where we talk about plant based businesses and their inspiring stories to thrive in the industry. I'm your host Bryan and joining us today is Samantha Derrick, founder and executive director of the Plant Futures Initiative. It's a 501c3 academic courses, a global student movement on a mission to accelerate the transition to a plant centric food system. We're so excited to have you on the show with us today, Samantha.


Samantha Derrick (00:38.222)

Thank you so much for having me, Bryan.


Bryan (00:40.844)

It is awesome to see you impacting the future that's yet to come here with the younger generation and the ones that are going through school. But like, let's start back at the beginning a little bit. What inspired you to start this, the plant futures initiative and how did your background and stuff influence all that?


Samantha Derrick (00:48.256)

you


Samantha Derrick (01:03.118)

Yeah, happy to take a step back through my life journey. So plant -based eating and really the vegan lifestyle has been a big part of my life since I was very young at 12 years old. I learned about factory farming and saw footage of slaughterhouses and that was the moment everything changed for me. It was really an inflection point in my life. And I started just learning more about animal rights, public health, human rights, and how this was all interconnected. And I knew that I wanted to work in this field. I knew.


I wanted to bring this way of eating to my community, everyone I loved and really to the world. So it really became my mission that day to get everyone around me to eat plants and think about how I could do that in my career path and throughout my life. So it was a big part of my life for several years. I was the kid bringing PETA stickers to school and flyers. And I was always looking for ways to be involved with the community and wasn't really quite able to find my niche when I was...


Bryan (01:50.316)

Yeah.


Samantha Derrick (01:58.574)

forming my career path. I went to UC Berkeley wanting to study this and wanting to focus more on food systems. And to my surprise, there wasn't a lot of conversation around this topic at the time. There wasn't really even like a major, some sort of course that would focus in on food systems, on plant -centric eating. So I ended up studying more broadly environmental policy. That was the closest that I could get to that and ended up working in renewable energy for a few years. But deep down inside, I always knew that I wanted to work in the plant -based field.


Bryan (02:22.86)

you


Samantha Derrick (02:28.14)

and wasn't really quite able to figure out how to do it and I couldn't find the right resources or coursework but I knew I had to go back. I wanted to go back to graduate school to adjust my skill set, learn new skills and move into food systems. So I went back to UC Berkeley to get my master's in public health and that's really where the journey for Plant Futures started.


wanting to focus on plant -centric food systems, knowing that public health was really the place where all of that intersected, all of the topics I cared about, animal rights, human rights, health, chronic disease. And then soon after I started the public health program, the pandemic started. So it just seemed like the...


timing was right, everything was aligned, and I was excited to dive deep into this, only to find out that in public health, they also were not talking about these issues. To my surprise, there's no discussion around animal agriculture, barely even touching on plant -based eating. And it was really surprising to me for me, this is like the single biggest public health issue we're facing in our lifetime. And to not even acknowledge that in my coursework, I was really frustrated and starting to question why am I even here? Did I choose the right grad school program? But if I leave, how do I find a job in this


field I was just confused. And then that confusion very quickly turned into an opportunity. So I met a professor soon after who ended up becoming my mentor for Plant Futures who really encouraged me to channel that frustration into creating something that I would have wanted for myself. He goes, well why don't you just start something at the school focused on this. I was like, all right, that seems like a fun side project to take on. Let's just explore that, see what that might look like. So we started as a small class project and I didn't really know if it would go anywhere but...


Bryan (03:37.132)

Yeah.


Bryan (03:56.94)

Yeah.


Samantha Derrick (04:02.094)

I was excited. I started drafting different iterations of a syllabus, thinking what would a course on plant -based food systems look like, and also something that would actually help students find jobs and create career paths in that sector. So it was a lot of like one thing led to another. I created a syllabus, started working on it in different iterations. I ended up meeting other students who got really excited about the idea and ended up collaborating with me. And then next thing you know, we're submitting the syllabus to university. So several months of iterations.


Bryan (04:23.678)

you


Samantha Derrick (04:28.174)

and we get news that the university approves it for academic credit to run it at the business. It was very exciting. It was a huge one to get UC Berkeley to acknowledge that this is an important topic we need to be teaching. But then I realized, oh, now I actually have to teach this course. So a lot of preparation for that as well. And we spent months preparing for this first course. And I really wanted it to go well because I thought this was our first and one chance to get the university to pay attention.


Bryan (04:31.54)

Wow, that's awesome.


Bryan (04:41.968)

Yeah.


Samantha Derrick (04:54.894)

We want students to enroll, we want hype around this, we want this to go really well because it does take a lot of good reviews and support from students in order for a course to continue. So we put a lot of effort into preparing for teaching.


course, marketing it on campus. And I ended up co -teaching the course with my professor that first semester. We had no idea how many students were going to sign up. I was worried if nobody signs up for this, I mean, we're going to lose credibility at the university. But that was not an issue. One week after another, we were checking registration numbers, and the numbers were just going up and up and up. And that first course, we had 500 students sign up. It was just well beyond expectations. I was.


Bryan (05:20.17)

Yeah.


Bryan (05:32.044)

Wow, so the untapped course for sure. My goodness, that's awesome.


Samantha Derrick (05:38.296)

Absolutely. And then it was, I think what was exciting too is we had students from all different departments signing up. It wasn't just public health, it wasn't just a business school. We had data science, computer science, policy students, just to show how this issue intersects into so many different disciplines and how many students across disciplines want to be a part of this. There was so much excitement around that first course and...


Bryan (05:53.1)

Mm -hmm.


Samantha Derrick (06:00.238)

We ended up getting emails from students at UCLA, from Harvard, from other campuses asking, hey, can we audit this? Like, how can we be part of this? Words started spreading to other campuses. So we ended up just opening the first course. Let's just make this as a virtual course, that first one. It was during COVID, so it was all online. And that was a signal to us that, I mean, students from other universities were interested. They wanted to be a part of this. We ended up creating, because of all the traction excitement we were getting, we ended up creating a part two course. The first one is a crash introduction to plant -based food systems.


Bryan (06:15.338)

Yeah.


Samantha Derrick (06:28.622)

The second one was the applied learning course, which is actually very relevant to companies in the space where we recruited a cohort of 10 companies and startups. We worked with Tofurky, Plant -Based Food Association, DIA Foods, Calafia Farms, Beyond Meat, just to name a few of the companies we've worked with to date. And they worked with the students for a semester on an applied learning project, some sort of challenge the company was having. And that gave students direct exposure, applied learning experience with the company.


Bryan (06:28.908)

Okay.


Bryan (06:51.244)

Hmm.


Samantha Derrick (06:54.636)

networks, mentorship, and the companies got direct access to talent. I mean, they had all of these challenges they were facing. They chose a real challenge of having the company. Suddenly they have this brilliant team of students, kind of similar to an internship that they're working with for the whole semester. They loved what the students produced. I mean, a lot of these companies are producing products for the next generation of consumers and they want to understand who are these consumers? What are they thinking? Who's our target market? So they help them develop marketing strategies, messaging strategies, go to market, doing market assessments. Where do we want to sell our product?


Bryan (07:06.762)

Yeah.


Bryan (07:13.492)

Mm -hmm.


Samantha Derrick (07:24.366)

And the students delivered such incredible results that a lot of them started getting jobs at the company. So that was actually an unexpected job offer, internship offer. So then that was the moment I realized, okay, this is not just a course, it's a talent pipeline into industry. It's missing on campuses. There are campuses all over the world at this point reaching out wanting to be a part of this. So that's really where the nonprofit was born. I graduated and then transitioned full -time to starting a social enterprise nonprofit and plan futures initiative. And since then we've expanded to...


Bryan (07:28.844)

Wow. Yeah.


Samantha Derrick (07:53.166)

over 40 campuses now across the world, mostly in the US, where we're starting Plant Futures chapters, we're expanding our curriculum, and we're really creating a global ecosystem of students, professional partners, faculty, really a whole community of people excited about this. And I think what's been most exciting is that most of the people as we collect data are actually not vegan or vegetarian. They're either flexitarian, plant curious, they're thinking about it, and that's exactly who we want to reach because we don't want to reach all vegans. So we've been very...


Bryan (08:07.968)

That's awesome.


Bryan (08:16.8)

Yeah.


That's right.


Samantha Derrick (08:20.43)

full and reaching broader audiences. And it's just been exciting to see the momentum, the energy, and really the response in the next generation because there's an energy in these students that even I didn't see when I was in school that care so much and they're looking for values -aligned careers. And we're missing a huge opportunity if we're not getting them into these jobs. We need talent, we need smart people, and we're going to lose them to other jobs if we're not grabbing them at that opportune moment when they're thinking about their careers.


Bryan (08:39.732)

Mm -hmm.


Bryan (08:44.492)

I yeah, oh my gosh, I commend you on your efforts. I have a couple quick follow ups here. Do you have any college? I'm in Charlotte, North Carolina. You have any colleges out or universities out this way yet? How can I help you in Charlotte?


Samantha Derrick (08:49.422)

you


Samantha Derrick (08:55.726)

We have to act to some campuses in North Carolina. I don't think we've officially enrolled them, but I would love to chat with you about recruiting more. Absolutely.


Bryan (09:01.702)

Okay, we'll take that offline because we're the pork capital of the world so I want to see us change that narrative.


my other question. It was just about like, how do you how do you what would you summarize as your like primary mission and goal then for plant based for plant future initiatives?


Samantha Derrick (09:27.59)

Our mission is to accelerate the transition to a plant -centric food system and we do that by equipping the next generation and we really want them to have the tools, the skill sets, the networks to really land values -aligned careers and equip them to help influence the next generation of consumers to change culture, to help grow companies, expand the sector, bring the right talent, the right ideas and people.


into the sector to ultimately grow.


grow the industry and also accelerate the broader shift to a plant -centric food system. And doing it at a time where students, Gen Z millennials, are more aware around climate change issues, public health issues, how this all relates to potential pandemics. There's just this awareness and excitement. So we want to make sure we don't lose this very special opportunity and time that we have. And also because of the urgency around these issues, we don't have a lot of time to waste to shift. And academia is such a unique opportunity.


Bryan (10:09.834)

Mm -hmm.


Bryan (10:15.592)

you


Bryan (10:24.128)

Oh my goodness, yeah.


Samantha Derrick (10:28.064)

opportunity and time college students are living out of their parents' home for the first time. They're starting to think more about their food choices or starting to think about their career paths. And you see how, I mean, my personal experience being in academia, talking to their campuses, how little support there is on campuses for students in this transition. And I think that's something that needs more awareness and more discussion in our movement is how do we support the next generation? Because they are the future leaders. They're going to be the ones leading our food system. And if we're not preparing them at the right time, we're going to be in trouble later.


Bryan (10:56.564)

Yeah. Oh my gosh. And I was just like, I just saw, uh, something in veg news about how Oscar Meyer is launching, you know, their, their big, huge plant initiative. And, you know, so like we have to get the awareness out there. We have to get those people into those positions in these bigger companies to change the narrative for sure. I guess I'm curious, like, you know, you've got this great educational path and, and core structure that you've got going.


Samantha Derrick (11:24.014)

you


Bryan (11:24.78)

Do you partner with the local cafeteria, the university cafeterias and anything like that to help make sure that there's vegan choices on the menu or plant oriented food on the menu too? How does it tie into the actual food system at the university?


Samantha Derrick (11:40.398)

Absolutely, that's actually a core part of what we do and something that we're going to have a bigger focus on in the coming year. So since the first program that we launched, the Challenge Lab course, that's where students are working directly with companies and organizations. One of the partners we recruited was actually UC Berkeley's dining hall. So one of the projects we worked on, we started establishing relationship with UC Berkeley Dining very early on, they started working.


with a team of students that were giving them feedback on the menus, how they could improve the plant -based options, how they could improve how they're messaging plant -based options, even how they're placed in the dining hall. There's so many different variables that go into students actually opting in for that option. And UC Berkeley dining is, I mean, really sets the precedent for all the UC dining halls and really for dining halls across the US. So having impact there has this ripple effect across the US and really this is a very unique opportunity where if we establish


Bryan (12:07.532)

Mm


Samantha Derrick (12:30.638)

relationship, we start improving the plant -based options. This could have huge impacts across the US. And since then, we have developed a closer relationship with them. They've worked directly with the director, lead chef, director of sustainability. They've done everything from experimenting with new messaging, how we're messaging plant -based options on campus, do we take the climate angle, the health angle. And then we've also worked with default veg. I'm not sure if you're familiar with their work.


Bryan (12:56.272)

Mm -mm.


Samantha Derrick (12:57.358)

but they work on switching the default option in the dining halls. Yeah.


Bryan (13:00.556)

Oh, yeah, yeah, I have seen them because I still boggles my mind to this day. I have to pay extra for oat milk when it should be the other way around. So, yeah, for sure.


Samantha Derrick (13:06.99)

Absolutely, yeah. And I think it's a brilliant strategy because you're not taking the consumer's choice away, you're just switching the default one, you can still request the animal option. So it's, we have tried so many incredible projects that have actually been very successful at the dining halls at Berkeley. So now we're expanding to create broader partnerships with UCLA, with the rest of the UC schools. And we're actually in works of


Bryan (13:18.028)

That's right.


Samantha Derrick (13:31.862)

of developing a bigger fellowship program where students can actually work on a one -year fellowship with their campus focused directly on dining hall work. So we're really excited to be establishing that big.


partnership across campuses. And then we have a pretty close relationship with the UC office of the president at across the University of California school system. And they actually just approved our course to be launched across all nine UC campuses in the fall. As a part of that new course, we're going to be working more closely with all the dining halls at the UC campuses. Yeah, we're really excited about that. It's, it's about time they start paying attention to these topics. Yeah.


Bryan (13:56.584)

Yay.


Bryan (14:03.084)

That's very cool. You're still, you're, you're going too fast on me because you're stealing all my good follow on questions here on that front. So that that's absolutely awesome. Um, and it is, it is so true because like, like the labeling and every little aspect of the food packaging and, and, and yeah, you've, you've hit it out of the park on so many levels. So you've talked through a lot of the collaborations and the partnerships.


Samantha Derrick (14:09.494)

I'm


Samantha Derrick (14:24.758)

. . .


Bryan (14:30.974)

You've talked through some of your strategies and stuff. Do you have one or two success stories that really shine out from the outcomes around the Plant Future Initiative?


Samantha Derrick (14:41.966)

Yeah, so one of the ideas outside of the curriculum when we first started establishing the program was creating a network of student chapters, which are essentially like student clubs or organizations on campus where students could really build community and activate community around plant -based food systems and bring the community together. That's also lacking on campuses, as you might know, and as vegans, being vegan can be an extremely isolating experience.


so much more accessible and fun where you have a community of people around you who get it, who support you, who want to try plant -based food with you. And that was also really missing at Berkeley is a uniting platform or community where students could get together. So we started creating the Plant Futures chapters across campuses and really activating communities and also showing students that they can have so much influence on campus and in the food system even before they graduate and find a job.


Bryan (15:22.196)

Mm -hmm.


Samantha Derrick (15:29.582)

Those four years on campus, there's so much you can do. I mean, we had our personal experience at Berkeley starting this curriculum. That was all student led and initiated. We have students making impact in the dining halls. And actually, I mean, all the improvements we've seen in plant -based options in the dining halls, most of those efforts have been led by students. I mean, they have potential for huge impact even on campus. So we really want to support them, showing them what they're able to do while they're on campus, showing them how to be advocates even before they find their career path.


So through that chapter network, it was kind of an experiment at first. Let's say it was just practice, see what happens, see how it goes. And one of our first chapters was Harvard. And the Harvard students, I mean, they blew it out of the park. They just went with it. They ran off with this chapter. And we, to the point where we lost track of what they were doing, because they were doing so many cool initiatives on campuses. And one really awesome story through the Harvard chapters, they actually found.


Bryan (16:12.556)

Yeah.


Samantha Derrick (16:19.662)

A faculty lead who was really excited, her name is Sparshya Saha, about what we were doing and really supportive of our curriculum. The students wanted the curriculum we're teaching at Berkeley at Harvard. They got the faculty sponsor, they advocated for it on campus, and they actually, between the faculty and the student chapter, they were able to get Harvard to approve our curriculum and teach it. So that was the first course outside of UC Berkeley, and just to show how impactful and influential students can be while on campus. So I think that was a great...


just model to start with and seeing like what if we started doing this on every campus? Like what is possible if we start activating students everywhere? And that's really what we've been focused on in the last two years is really activating students. And there have been so many awesome events, initiatives. I mean, outside of the Challenge Lab, students are getting jobs left and right. They're connecting to companies. And then students, another example is at University of Michigan, I believe it was, they had a whole vegan tailgate at a football game.


Bryan (17:11.112)

Wow. Yeah.


Samantha Derrick (17:15.084)

which is unheard of. So it's so cool because it's a space where you wouldn't expect veganism or plant -based eating to be a part of. We're really, I think, influencing cultural change. And the students are really cultural entrepreneurs as well. And that's really what we're focused on doing and really thinking about what this could look like as we start to scale globally and really equip students and give them the tools they need.


Bryan (17:38.756)

Well, there's so many like vegan educators out there and vegan, um, people that, that want to pour into people's lives. You know, how do we go towards the vegan path? So I'm just curious, like for, for those that aren't as familiar with the industry in universities and courses and stuff, how is the plant futures initiative funded? And like, how do you bring these courses through and grow?


grow your business basically.


Samantha Derrick (18:09.582)

Yeah, absolutely. So we are a 501c3 non -profit, so a lot of our funding does come from foundations, donors, philanthropy, a majority of not all of it, but we've been very fortunate to get support from bigger foundations, including climate foundations as well. There are some foundations that are more focused on animal rights and plant -based eating, which we get some support from there. But we've started to move more into climate philanthropy, and it's been an interesting...


Bryan (18:25.548)

Awesome.


Samantha Derrick (18:34.444)

battle with that because when I first started talking to climate philanthropists about a couple years ago, they were not paying attention to this at all. The amount of climate philanthropists who told me, we're not funding that, we're not funding anything in food systems because we don't see it as an effective way to address climate change was shocking to me. It was just like, and that the more conversations I had, the more...


Bryan (18:39.07)

you


Bryan (18:46.348)

Wow. Yeah. Yeah.


It just goes to show the, the lobbying and stuff that's had that impact to hide it in other smaller numbers. So yeah.


Samantha Derrick (19:00.898)

Absolutely. It was shocking to me and I realized, wow, a lot of the world I think is still behind when it comes to these topics or not thinking about this. But I have noticed a shift I would say in the last year where they're starting to pay more and more attention and they realize this is the future we have to shift to. We don't really have a choice. So we're moving in that direction in the climate field, not as fast as I'd like us to, but we're getting there. So we are very fortunate we have support from climate. We have support from...


Bryan (19:18.666)

Yeah.


Bryan (19:30.764)

you


Samantha Derrick (19:39.654)

in the Challenge Lab course. So every partner that joins us, they will give a contribution in the nonprofit to help support the growth of the organization. But more than anything for them, I mean, this is talent recruitment. This is access to some of the most brilliant students that I've ever come across. And for them, it's the equivalent of working with a team of interns for the semester. So the value that they get out of it is they get so much more value for a much lower price, let's say, than working with a team of interns or hiring new staff. So to them, I mean, they...


Bryan (19:52.428)

Mm -hmm.


Bryan (19:57.438)

Yeah.


Samantha Derrick (20:08.806)

We have had so many companies coming at us left and right and saying like, this is a great alternative to not only finding the new generation of employees, the talent they need, but also if you just have a really tough challenge you need to solve or you need some consumer insight, they work with our students for a few weeks and get incredible deliverables out of that. So that, and that helps of course sustain our nonprofit as well.


Bryan (20:28.076)

That's amazing.


I want to take you up on that offer. I want some help for my little budding plant based business here on that front. So I, yeah, that'd be great. We'll, we'll talk about that too. I do have a question because I was talking a few days ago with Brent Haygood. He's one of the vegan bodybuilders and he, uh, does, he has the one to many and gives the t -shirts out and this pay it forward type model to get money towards the animal sanctuaries.


Samantha Derrick (20:37.158)

We'd love to work with you. That'd be amazing.


I'm still.


Bryan (20:59.148)

And him and I were talking about the end of industrial animal farming. Um, he, you know, he's on this mission. He said it was, he was on this mission to end that. And, you know, he thinks of it as a very daunting challenge. And I guess I see it as inevitable. I'm just curious, you know, since you're in this educational space, like, will it happen before I die, I suppose, or will it happen in my children's generation? Like,


It's got to happen. It's got to end, right? Like, what's your quick thoughts on that one?


Samantha Derrick (21:30.31)

Yeah, it's interesting because I have my personal views on that and then there are different views like within our organization, our student community. I mean, personally, this has been my mission since I became vegan at 12. I think factory farming is one of the most horrific moral issues of our time. And I've never, I want to see it end as we know it. The way that we raise animals now is horrific. And to your point, I don't think we're going to have an option. I mean, whether we want to or not, like the moral issue aside with climate change, public health,


Bryan (21:40.428)

Right.


Bryan (21:51.456)

Yeah.


Samantha Derrick (21:58.778)

potential of pandemics. I think I it's unfortunately we might have to live through a catastrophe related to factory farming before we actually I hope not either. Yeah.


Bryan (22:04.844)

I know, I hope not. I hope we can be smarter.


Samantha Derrick (22:11.238)

I do hope that that system in my lifetime will end and that's my own mission. And I think organizationally and also in our student community, there are broader issues around, or there are broader conversations around the role of animals in the food system. And there are differing opinions around that. Like, do we need animals, regenerative farming, what is the role of animals? But I think what we notice across our organization, our student network is regardless of what your stance is on it, everyone is on board or most people acknowledge that we have to shift to more plant -centric eating. Whether...


Bryan (22:28.568)

Mm -hmm.


Samantha Derrick (22:39.59)

We want to know whether you're vegan or not. This is something we can all get behind and we can all align on. And we have the signs and evidence that we need. There's no arguing that we have to shift to more plant -centric diets. What the proportion of that is, there's different opinions, what the role of animals will be in the future. But as far as industrial animal agriculture specifically, I personally think it's horrific and I think that that needs to end, no question.


Bryan (22:53.036)

Yes.


Bryan (23:01.964)

Right. Yeah. Well, I just love the approach that you're taking, which is like, we're not going to get everybody to be vegan. Although we're going to try, but we're not going to get everybody there. But like this, this middle of the road of like, we have got to eat more plants is just phenomenal. And I really applaud your effort. So there's, there's some business entrepreneurs out there watching this and stuff. So what, what would you give for advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and other food system leaders?


Samantha Derrick (23:31.622)

Yeah, absolutely. For the ones working on food and CPG, which I don't have personal experience in that myself, I'm more on the social venture nonprofit end, but we work with a lot of food entrepreneurs and startups. And of course, we have a program where you work directly with students, but whether it's through Plant Futures or not, I see the value of companies talking, working directly with their next generation of consumers with their target market. A lot of startups are out there guessing, assuming, trying different things without ever having conversations directly with students or doing focus groups.


Do whatever you can to connect to that next generation, because they are your target market. They are the ones who will be eating your products. Understand them as much as possible. Listen to them. Let them be leaders in your organizations. And also, hire them. I think there's so much value in hiring. We've had undergrads working with these huge companies, giving them strategies around TikTok and social media. And they're brilliant. I mean, things that people with a ton of expertise aren't necessarily able to do. So really think about the role of, I think,


Bryan (24:03.98)

Mm -hmm.


Samantha Derrick (24:28.484)

intergenerational learning, but also mentorship on both ends. As much as you are able to mentor a student, they're able to mentor you too. And there's just so much reciprocity that comes out of that. So that'd be my advice, just seeing what we've learned from our program is connect to those students, mentor, receive mentoring, but you have to gather insights directly with the people you're trying to reach with your products.


Bryan (24:40.906)

Yeah.


Bryan (24:50.156)

I love it. I love it. What is your vision for the future of Plant Future Initiative and its hopeful impact on the world and how do we get involved and get in touch with you?


Samantha Derrick (25:02.982)

Yeah, so great question. We, I would love Plan Futures to be the go -to course platform community globally all over the world. When students want to learn about this or get a job in this field, they go to Plan Futures. They come to us and they know being part of our community will help them their career journey. I don't want any student ever, including like from my own personal experience to live that again, to feel isolated, to feel lost, to feel like they can't contribute or be a part of this.


and lose them to another job. I want every student in the world to know that they have a platform, they have community, they have resources to us. And I see us being existing globally, having different regional chapters all over the world and also offering a curriculum in different parts of the world. Right now we are mostly US based, we have an English curriculum, but we actually just launched a pilot program in Mexico. We're in process of translating our curriculum to Spanish. And I would love having different iterations, different languages and what we're doing. And also you have to make it...


specific to the food system in that area. Of course, the food system and the challenges are very different depending where you are. Right now, we've built a US focused program, but we'd have to adapt and that's going to take time. But I would love to get to that point where we are the go -to course, the community, and also the community that students are getting students excited about plant -based eating and are shifting them more to plant -based diets. We collect data and feedback surveys after every course, after every event, and the majority of students attending our course and events.


say, I think it's over 95 % say that the program influenced them to eat more plant -based, to become more vegan, to really be a part of this movement. And that's my objective is to get people to eat more plants so that we can accelerate that transition to a plant -centric food system. And I hope that you'll join our community, whoever is listening. Easiest way to do that, go on our website, plantfeaturesinitiative .org, subscribe to our newsletter. That's where we're sending out updates on what we're up to.


We're on social media, Instagram, LinkedIn. On Instagram, I believe we're Plant Futures Official. On LinkedIn, you can find us as Plant Futures as well. I would say those are three easiest avenues. More directly, you can take our course. Next semester, it's going to be offered across all UC campuses if you're a UC student. If you're a company, any company of any size can join our Challenge Lab course. You can reach out to me directly, samanthapplantfuturesinitiative .org.


Samantha Derrick (27:17.542)

And lastly, if you're a student, you can start a chapter on your campus or join an existing one. And you can reach out to me about that as well if you're interested.


Bryan (27:17.686)

Awesome.


Bryan (27:26.06)

Very, very, very well said. So eat more kale people and help Samantha translate this into the languages that you all speak out there. And we can be a part of the change that we see. So some great, great conversation and ideas here, Samantha. I really, really appreciate you joining us on this episode of Plant Based on Fire.


Samantha Derrick (27:46.502)

Thank you so much, Brian. It was great chatting.


Bryan (27:49.196)

Yeah, it's been awesome. Everybody. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your insights, Samantha. Again, until next time, everybody keep that fire burning.


Samantha Derrick (27:59.566)

Thank you.


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