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Devon Hamilton, co-founder of Trade Roots Culinary Collective, goes by @grillin4thepeople on Instagram. 

When the Sustain Dane conference awards this year’s sustainability champions, it will be a celebration of food.

All three of this year’s Live Forward Award (formerly the Badger Bioneer Award) recipients use food as a bridge to cultural barriers and as a vehicle for opportunity.

The summit, the group’s 10th, takes place on Friday, Nov. 2, at the Gordon Dining and Events Center on the UW-Madison campus. The keynote speaker will be Victoria Barrett, a plaintiff in the lawsuit by Our Children's Trust against the U.S. government for failing to act on climate change. A fellow with the Alliance for Climate Education, she spoke in 2015 at the Paris UN Conference on Climate Change.  

All three of the Live Forward awardees are under 30, and all three connect food sustainability with social justice.

Devon Hamilton is on the cutting edge of food sustainability. As the policy director at the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, which promotes sustainable agriculture throughout the state, he works with agricultural agents on land management practices. He also works on a program to teach middle and high school kids about food systems, partnering with groups like the UW PEOPLE Program and the Mellowhood Foundation in the Meadowood Neighborhood.

He sits on the Mellowhood board, as well as the REAP board and the Organizational Council for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. He’s a volunteer at Badger Rock Middle School and otherwise promotes awareness of nutrition, social justice and the environment.

He’s also a founding member of TradeRoots Culinary Collective, an endeavor created to highlight the food of the African diaspora and to raise funds for a trip to West Africa led by James Beard chef Michael Twitty through catering and pop-up events.

And since graduating from UW-Madison, he’s hosted huge open cookouts as a way to draw people together.

“We’d host a lot of cookouts out of pocket,” he recently told the Cap Times. “Invite folks over, eat a bunch of good food and use those spaces to heal after certain things had happened on campus or celebrate or organize.”

Donale Richards takes a more entrepreneurial approach to food, with the aim of teaching business acumen and social responsibility to youth in underserved neighborhoods.

Richards manages Off the Block Enterprises for Mentoring Positives, a Darbo-Worthington neighborhood nonprofit. The program involves teens in producing and selling OTB brand salsa and pizzas with the aim of putting profits toward Mentoring Positives programs. Richards plans to sell OTB brand products at the Madison Public Market, slated to open on East Washington Avenue in two years.

OTB Salsa already sells at Metcalfe’s Market.

Richards is also co-founder of UrbanPonics, an aquaponics venture to supply ingredients for a future Carribean-style food service. He aims for the company to provide a sustainability model that will inspire other minority business owners.

Short Stack Eatery co-owner Alex Lindenmeyer created a sustainability team that works on race equity, alternative transportation, waste reduction and local buying. She also works with Just Bakery, which sells products produced by formerly incarcerated and homeless people, the Doyenne group, which fosters entrepreneurial opportunities for women, Black Women Heal, a UW initiative to support black students, and Wheels for Winners, which supplies bikes to young people who perform community service.

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Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.