Real Food Challenge update
It has been an active semester for the Real Food Challenge Team (RFCT) at Fort Lewis College (FLC). Attempting to move the Real Food Challenge (RFC) forward at FLC has been the team’s top priority since last fall when they began working on the initiative. Specifically, the RFC is a nation-wide campaign that aims to provide students with particular resources to gain the interest of their respective college toward purchasing 20 percent of their annual food budget of “real food”. Real food refers to food that meets particular sets of criteria found in four categories: fair, local, humane and ecologically-sound.
Thus far, the team has set their agenda to achieve this goal by continuously meeting to form projects, goals and education around the challenge, in conjunction with staff from the Environmental Center (EC), FLC and Sodexo (the college’s dining hall food service. Preceding the current semester, the team was fortunate enough to have FLC Environmental Studies intern Laura Owens evaluate a semester’s worth of Sodexo’s food purchases for FLC using what is known as the real food calculator. With the systematic methodology and rigorous research of the calculator, she revealed that, currently, Sodexo purchases about 4.6 percent of real food per semester.
With a bit over 15 percent more real food needed to be bought annually to reach the overall goal of the challenge, the team is continuing to seek innovation and progress. This is a two-fold process: they’ll look to expand on educational type events for students, faculty, community and other college staff members, while doing additional research and analysis aimed at better efficiency in general and enhancing the processes by which they measure their results. The former of these has been somewhat more practically-driven as of recently. For example, on October 24, 2013, the RFCT, EC and Sodexo, put together a real food meal event at FLC. Essentially, the lunch showcased mostly a small variety of local meats and vegetables, as well as some foods which met the other four criterion of the RFC. From the staff of Sodexo to the students of FLC, the day made important connections, and illuminated the progress the RFC is making at the FLC campus. The latter of these tasks has involved reaching out to leaders within the RFC and student leaders from other campuses across the country, which the RFCT can utilize in terms of their successes and failures, etc.
Currently, the RFCT is work on planning more real meal days, including one more this
semester in December. They are also working on creating a press kit and a webpage. In doing so, they will open a new wave of media outreach which should help spread the word about the RFC here at FLC. Furthermore, a few team members have shifted their focus upon contacting other schools committed to the RFC to learn from their experiences. So far, what they have found is that is that the RFCT and EC may want to consider working on further analyzing the calculator results to highlight the campaign and raise its awareness. Similarly, it has been found that more education and learning opportunities need to be provided to the Sodexo staff in order to foster a stronger relationship with the FLC food vendor. Needless to say, the following weeks and semester ought to be full of busy and important work for this team.
By C.J. Clayton, RFCT member