The challenge? To devise real solutions to our nation's fast and cheap food habits, and to spread those ideas through online videos on the Yoxi.tv (pronounced YO-see) website. Whether those solutions come by way of products, technology, ad campaigns or community programs is up to the teams themselves.
The idea is a riff off of American Idol. Instead of bestowing a singer with super-stardom, the ultimate goal of the Yoxi competition is to find and fund solutions. Just don't look for Simon Cowell's scowl or snarkiness here. Judges include Food Politics author Marion Nestle; notable chef and Wholesome Wave founder Michel Nischan, and Whole Foods Market Northeast Region president Christina Minardi.
"What I love about this is the social change bent," Nischan told Slashfood. "It's not just the most talented person wins. Whoever wins this has the opportunity to get the type of support to pursue a dream that makes life better for many people, not just one."
Chang, former chief creative officer at 19 Entertainment, says the social-innovation space is still very niche, and too often those doing the talking are just preaching to the choir.
"We wanted to introduce vehicles and elements used in marketing and media entertainment to make these conversations more mainstream. It's about influencing people who don't normally pay attention," says Chang.
The contest, which started in early November with 10 teams (including student teams from New York University and Yale), feels part American Idol, part Kick Starter, and part TEDx. A guaranteed prize of $5,000 will go to the winner. Extra funding can come from pledges made by the voting public, with matching funds provided by Yoxi.
Contestant Jeremy Shaw of team Mission Opportunity says he was motivated to join the competition because he'd like to change the way people eat by making healthy street food more available.
"Our idea is to provide sponsorship through a seed fund, so small businesses who don't have the capital to start their own restaurant or buy their own food carts can get a leg up, and have a chance to bring their food to market," says Shaw.
Judges are reviewing round-two videos now. Only two of the remaining six teams will move forward to the final round. Videos will be posted on Yoxi.tv tomorrow. While Yoxi launched their competition with a food-related theme, future competitions (conducted four times a year) will address topics in education, clean energy, recycling and health.