Members of Students for Sustainable Food celebrated the signing of the Real Food Campus Commitment Wednesday, April 6, with an art installation in Red Square.
Members of the SSF set up a 6 foot by 8 foot canvas made from recycled materials on the lawn outside the Humanities Building. Students passing by were able to paint the canvas using dye made of vegetable waste from the Electric Beet Juice Co.
Junior and SSF club member Amber Due, said the art installation was designed to engage students and give them a voice in the Real Food Challenge. The Real Food Challenge is a project to increase sustainable food practices at universities around the country.
The challenge inspired the commitment signed by University President Bruce Shepard.
On Friday, April 1, Shepard signed the Real Food Commitment which will hold the university accountable to increase the campus real food purchases from 11 percent to 25 percent by the year 2020, said senior Tristan Sokol, SSF’s special events coordinator.
The fight to reach this point has been a five year process, Sokol said.
“There was a lot of resistance,” he said. “I think it’s kind of just a shame because Western touts itself as leaders in sustainability.”
While the group is celebrating the latest development they will not allow the commitment to be an excuse to stop moving forward, Due said.
“We can keep pushing it and creating more change on campus,” she said.
Currently, about 11 percent of the campus food budget goes toward sustainable food purchases, Sokol said. This is down from a little over 18 percent a couple months ago before SSF learned Edaleen Dairy was a Concentrated Animal Feeding Organization, which means they emit a lot of nitrogen waste into the environment over a small area. Thus, the products purchased from the dairy did not meet the criteria for real food and were eliminated from the percentage, Sokol said.
But SSF is confident they will be able to raise those percentages again by creating a Food Systems Working Group as prescribed by the Real Food Challenge.
The Food Systems Working Group is a team of experts who help to make sure we shift our purchases to real food, Sokol said. The group will be made up of university students, administration staff and dining hall representatives, said freshman and SSF club member Emma Bigongiar.
“The only thing holding people back is educating them about [social and environmental justice issues] and a lot of people just don’t know about it,” Sokol said.
SSF club member Lorenzo Perella, freshman, said the care you put into food is important.
“I am a fan of food,” he said. “I really find you are what you eat and you can find a lot of connections with people through what you share around a table.”
The SSF will hold a formal and more public ceremony to celebrate Western’s commitment to the Real Food Challenge sometime in May.