The five-year fight ended with a win for the Students for Sustainable Foods as President Bruce Shepard signed a commitment to the Real Food Challenge, a policy requiring at least 25 percent of dining hall food to be locally sourced.
SSF celebrated their victory during the commitment signing ceremony with food, presentations by local, sustainable food organizations and a demonstration of the commitment agreement by University Director of Residences Leonard Jones on Wednesday, May 25.
“It’s taken about five years of students pressuring the university to finally agree to do this,” SSF club officer Tristan Sokol said. “It’s very difficult for students to get lots of major changes done in the university system due to bureaucracy and administration.”
The Real Food Challenge officially launched in 2008 aiming to shift university food budgets from industrial food systems to locally-sourced and community-involved food.
“Universities across the nation spend billions of dollars on food a year, and that’s the power to shift purchasing from corporate to organic farming.”
York Farm Director Mary Loquvam
The program has a goal to shift $1 billion of university food budgets to sustainable foods by 2020.
“The intent behind the Real Food Challenge is to move the money from unsustainable and morally bankrupt food systems and transition them into sustainable, local and community-oriented type of mindsets,” SSF club member Kyla Garlid said.
Western currently uses Aramark, a food service corporation, as a source for its food both in dining hall locations and retail locations like the Miller Market. Amarak holds contracts with universities around the country.
Western is not the only university to take on the Real Food commitment. Colleges such as Evergreen College have signed a commitment requiring 28 percent of food be locally sourced for on campus dining. Gonzaga University signed the commitment with a minimum of 25 percent.
Thirty-eight universities have signed the Real Food Challenge commitment, with the University of California Santa Cruz, Oberlin College and Warren Wilson College signing on for a minimum of 40 percent, the highest of any universities.
“The minimum for the Real Food Challenge is 20 percent but we were like, ‘No, we want more. We’re Western,’” Garlid said. “We wanted to walk our talk and go for 25 percent.”
Cost was a factor for the university when deciding to commit to the the Real Food Challenge since students paying for dining plans may find an increase in price, Garlid said. , but the SSF maintains sustainable food is a worth the cost, Garlind said.
“The increase in dining plan cost isn’t going to be substantial,” Garlid said.
Food & Farming Program Manager Sarah Southerland and York Farm Director Mary Loquvam gave presentations during the signing event on how important the Real Food Challenge was to the sustainable food movement.
“Universities across the nation spend billions of dollars on food a year, and that’s the power to shift purchasing from corporate to organic farming,” Loquvam said.
Western was unable to provide information on the plans’ price increase due to the challenge in time for publication.