Students involved with the club Students for Sustainable Foods presented gift baskets to President Shepard’s and university residences Leonard Jones’ offices to thank them for agreeing to sign the Real Food Challenge on Monday, March 7.
Although the Real Food Challenge has not yet been signed by President Shepard, is has been confirmed by his assistant Barbara Sandoval that Western will make the written commitment this spring.
As part of the agreement, university dining halls will be moving toward the use of “real foods,” aiming to increase their use from 11 percent currently to 25 percent by 2020, said Students for Sustainable Foods member Amber Due.
Real foods are defined as food that is local, fair, humane and organic, but the movement aspires to reform the industry as a whole, club member Tristan Sokol said.
“[Real foods] is working to protect the planet, but also the people who are working in [the food industry],” Sokol said. “We want to make sure we have food that is responsible to the people who provide it for us and just for all the people who work down the ‘food chain.’”
The Real Food Challenge is a nation-wide project designed to allow youth and universities to create a healthy, fair and green food system, according to the Real Food Challenge website. They provide resources for student organizations to petition their universities to participate in the Challenge.
“There’s been student support behind [the challenge] for a long time,” Sokol said.
Ninety-two percent of students who voted showed support for implementing the Real Food Challenge at Western by voting on an initiative the Students for Sustainable Foods put on the school ballot in 2013, Sokol said.
“Students for Sustainable Foods has been working with administrators and students for four to five years now,” Sokol said.
Sokol points to the case of Sakuma Berries, which are being boycotted because of their exploitation of undocumented workers.
Sustainability in the food industry is influenced by the methods used to grow crops.
“Sustainable food is growing food in a way that in the future generations [can use],” Due said.
These methods include crop rotations that leave soil fertile for the future, less pesticide use on crops and a shift away from industrial farming, Due said.
“It’s been predicted that in the next 10 years there won’t be any family farms left; it’ll all be corporations,” club member Robin Molise said. “We think that this is a really important way to address that and pay more attention to local farms and local farm workers.”
Last year, Sokol, along with leaders of the club Rosa Rice-Pelepko and Melinda Vickers, felt efforts towards implementing the Real Food Challenge had faded out and decided to revitalize the challenge.
“This year, we started doing more educational things,” Sokol said.
So far, Students for Sustainable Foods have hosted a teach-in, allowing students to learn about sustainable food and how to change the corporate food system.
The club has also been reached out to Western students by setting up booths on campus to answer any questions they have on sustainable foods. They also asked students to sign the Real Food Challenge to show their support.