Making Moves and Taking Names: Real Food Challenge Edition

By Aolani Peiper, Real Food Challenge Team Coordinator

I came to the AASHE conference with an open mind and so much excitement, I could barely contain it. I am very thankful I was able to have the opportunity to be surrounded and connect with so many people that cared about sustainability and were doing things at their institutions and organizations to do something about it. I saw that these organizations and movements they started, didn’t just have connections, funding, and many people to put their heads together to perform tasks. It was a place full of people, passionate about their cause and starting from the grassroots to work their way up!

I thought I was coming to this conference to present on the Real Food Challenge and Vote Real at Fort Lewis. Little did I know that I would be asked to share stories and help our regional representative and calculator coordinator to present on the Real Food challenge and social change as a whole as well. It was a humbling experience and I was able to present and share my story at the Student Summit. It was the perfect platform and space for it. The Real Food challenge team and I put together a presentation and had been working on it every chance we got for weeks. We presented on the last day of the conference and it was a huge success! We were able to connect and network with other participating Real Food Challenge schools as well as organizations that are familiar with the campaign and willing to help us advance.

Some of my favorite moments were lunches where we all got to network and meet new people. I made so many connections with people, especially students. It was a great space to converse and talk sustainability and how intersectional it really is. It was impactful and very empowering to share stories and experiences with people that were promoting sustainability, like we try to at the Environmental Center here on campus. I also have to brag about my amazing team; At AASHE we really put our name on the map for Real Food Challenge schools. It was truly incredible to walk up to an individual or representative of an organization, say our name where we are from, and have them already know us! After an intro it was always answered with “oh you’re from Fort Lewis? I know about your work on the Real Food Challenge team and your commitment and it’s great to meet you.” It was almost like we were famous! Our presentation only made our school and our team that much more impactful and known. It helped us establish relationships and expand our resources. It also reinforced that our work isn’t going unnoticed and we should celebrate our victories. I’m proud to say that I am not just the coordinator but an active member on the Real Food Challenge team trying to make a difference.

“It also reinforced that our work isn’t going unnoticed and we should celebrate our victories.”

 

I did have a major take away from the conference and it is that the Real Food Challenge team and Environmental Center in general is making moves, and I mean it just like that. We have been extremely successful in our initiatives and continue to promote sustainability in ways that campuses are only just starting. It’s been amazing to see over the years how the Real Food Challenge has continued to grow. Our team developed and presented one of the first democratic mechanisms to get students involved in our food system and vote on real food they wanted to see on their plate. After this experience, the team has so much in store and can’t wait for you all to be involved.

What if Meatless Mondays Carried Over to Every Day of the Week?

By Ali Scheig, Real Food Challenge

A lot of times in the world of environmentalism we can lose sight of the main goal, get burnt out, and lose a lot of the passion we once felt. Especially being a senior Environmental Studies major, I can feel this at times. I focus on the food system in my studies and I am sometimes worried I am going to get burnt out from it, but going to AASHE this October solidified this passion and made me feel renewed in my studies and my work at the Environmental Center.

I think that environmentalism starts with all of us, and that personal decisions are the most feasible tool we all have in order to see the changes we care about making. Listening to hours of presentations, workshops, and participating in discussions about the food system was inspiring for lack of better words. I saw how many people care and are currently starting initiatives, motivating students, and having really important conversations with others about our future and what we can do.

The most impactful presentation I went to was by Ken Botts, who works with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and he worked on a project that created the first all vegan dining hall on a college campus. Being a vegetarian for three years and a vegan for one, I was so amazed that this was a possibility, but also had thoughts that many would not be very excited about a perpetual meatless Monday on their own campus. Ken and others spoke about things that worked and things that don’t in order to decrease the amount of meat while simultaneously increasing sustainability on college campuses. Ken Botts and the HSUS do FREE (!!) two-day trainings with dining hall staff members to teach them how to make really amazing meat-free, dairy-free, and egg-free dishes. They also realized through studies that if they didn’t tell students that it was vegan or vegetarian, it increased positive feedback from students because didn’t even notice the lack of meat and animal products in their food. This presentation gave me and other Real Food Challenge team members ideas and inspiration going forward with our movement concerning sustainability, social justice, and animal rights at Fort Lewis.

Yippee! We went to AASHE!

By Kaidee Akullo, Real Food Challenge

Hello world, I would like to start out by saying: the Real Food Challenge Team at Fort Lewis College is amazing! Last semester I had the distinct opportunity and pleasure to attempt to cohesively summarize all of the work that our team of powerful women does in relation to the Real Food Challenge. This summary took the form of a proposal: a 200 word snapshot of our Vote Real initiative for a chance at presenting at the annual conference by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

Seven months after submitting our proposal, myself and three of my Real Food Challenge teammates were walking up the steps of the Marriott Hotel to present A Journey to Real Food: Growing an Intersectional Food Movement through Student Involvement and Empowerment.

While at the conference I had several revelations. One, community is essential. In any movement the people who make the most change are a coalition of intersectional individuals who can utilize their respective resources as tools for success. That got me thinking, how am I being intersectional in my goals and aspirations? Am I actively using my connections between Black Student Union, the Environmental Center and relationships on campus to create collective change? Two, it is okay to be a little controversial? It is too easy for people to get caught up in their own lives and ignore what is happening around them. If you need to be radical in order for people to start talking about issues, then do it! We will not bring about growth and prosperity by waiting for change to happen, we have to create it ourselves. Three, take a look around. The pride I felt for my team after our presentation was echoed and amplified as I think of all the other amazing initiatives being put in place around the country and world. We came home with ideas on sustainable eating, collaboration, social justice, and diversity, all of which we are eager to engage in. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have experienced part of the social and environmental sustainability work that people are doing if you just look around.

As our discussion on the intersectionality of the food movement ended with a challenge, I will leave you all with a new challenge: Go out and think about how you interact with the world, check your privilege and your connections, and take action to make sustainable change.

Real Food, Real Life, Real Change

Katrina Rachwitz, Real Food Challenge Team

I considered myself to be a passionate environmentalist when I started at Fort Lewis College. As my time here has progressed I believe my passion has grown significantly. I am an environmental studies major, and of course, my education has solidified environmental consciousness for me, but I have grown mostly because of the time I spend at the Environmental Center with the amazing EC’ers.

I am a part of the Real Food Challenge team, working to get ecologically sound, humane, fair and/or local foods in the dining hall. This has brought all different aspects of environmentalism into one neatly packaged project. Food is this amazing knot that connects people to the earth, and it connects all beings to each other no matter if they are a different ethnicity, religion or species. We all need to eat, right?

Through my work at the EC I get to learn about the impact of our food system on the world around us and not just the impact of food on ourselves. I’ve learned about how food transportation causes an increased dependence on fossil fuels, about the torturous lives that livestock live, and how our current food system perpetuates great human rights violations. The Real Food Challenge is changing the food system to benefit, instead of harm, the earth, workers, biodiversity, livestock, and our own health.

The EC has this amazing energy whenever I walk through the doors. It’s always full of passionate people excited to make their impact in the world. All the employees and volunteers at the EC are learning how to live sustainably and how to bring the values and tactics we learn into the world beyond Fort Lewis.

We do some amazing work for sustainability on and off campus, but that is not what makes the EC so amazing, it is the people there. I have made some of my best friends and done some of the most inspiring things because of the EC. The world is in a tough spot environmentally and socially, and whenever I start to feel down about our current political predicament, I just go to the EC. I see wonderful people working to make the world a better place, and they give me hope for the future!

Engaging with Real Food

By Aolani Peiper, Real Food Challenge Coordinator

The last time I wrote for the Environmental Center was during my freshman year and my first semester at the EC. Now I am nearing the end of my sophomore year, and I am the coordinator of the Real Food Challenge Team. I never would have thought I would be leading this special team of intelligent and hardworking individuals into the realm of food justice and security.

In my time here, the Real Food Challenge has been more than a national campaign for socially just food. It has also been a chance to empower the students and community at Fort Lewis and beyond! Only 2% of Fort Lewis foods were “real” in my first semester here. With the help of my wonderful team, the EC coordinator, and Sodexo staff, we have increased our percentage to 7% in just one year – well on our way to our first major goal of 20%.

It’s an honor to be a part an eclectic community that cares so much about food and the environment. Fort Lewis, the EC, and the Durango community are working towards an ecologically sound, humane, fair trade, and local food system right at home. I thought “real food” was important because it meant a healthier lifestyle for the body and the environment, but it has become something much larger than that.

My perspective has changed a lot since I became involved with the EC. I became turned on to food systems and the social justice side of this work. The fact is, “real food” requires a movement, and I want to make a difference. There isn’t a better way to start than in my own community and at my school. Becoming more involved as an FLC student through the EC has been eye opening. I may not be your typical Environmental Studies major, but I see a difference in what I can do through the Real Food Challenge.

I think its best with a movement like this to hear from the people: the students who live on campus and eat the food here. I love educating people on “real food” and the impacts it can have socially, economically, physically and environmentally. I am especially proud of the Vote Real campaigns my team and I hold as well as the presentations we give. I see the voice of community shining through my team, and I see pressure being put on corporate powers. The Vote Real campaigns give a voice to those who need to be heard. It is food democracy.

Bananas for Apples

Hello world!

My name is Kaidee Akullo, and I am a freshman and proud member of the Real Food Challenge Team!

In my first few weeks with the Environmental Center family I have been able to connect with and relate to someone in each team. This alone has shown me that being part of the EC will provide me with a community like no other.

I am looking forward to becoming environmentally conscious, knowledgeable and well-rounded through my interactions with individuals, communities and organizations through the EC. I recently had my first outreach experience, and I just finished working on a short film for our Vote Real campaign.

My first experience tabling with the EC has been completed and was a success! This year at the Durango Apple Days festival the EC had a table where the Local Food Security Team paired with Cream Bean Berry to make apple ice cream flavors.

I was able to help serve enough scoops of Almond Milk Apple and Apple Pie flavored ice cream to bring in $500 to the EC. At the festival we educated the public about the events the EC puts on and how we are impacting the Fort Lewis community.

My next tabling event was more specific to my team. The Real Food Challenge team went out chatting with and educating people in preparation for our Vote Real event that opened on October 10.  I will table next at the Wellness Fair on October 12.

Vote Real was a huge success last year as we were able to permanently shift 240 pounds of local pesticide-free potatoes into the Sodexo dining plan. This means that the Real Food Challenge percentage has increased 1.3%, and the potato purchasing is contributing $11,000 to the local economy!

To keep the momentum going we are excited to be implementing new marketing techniques. Coming soon is a Vote Real video and Snapchat updates about who we are and what we do. I am personally super excited about the little movie because it is my first one! Our team will soon be official directors and filmmakers with new videos for each campaign season.

I am super excited for the Wellness Fair as it speaks to my background and curiosity about wellness and food. At the fair I will be able to present and discover how sustainability and real foods are associated with wellness.

This issue is one I feel the constant need to share and discuss becuase it relates to the health of our society. The correlation between wellness and eating right is uncanny. Even on a simple level when one eats in a balanced way they feel well and are able to be productive. This productivity leads to development of the whole community.

Real food guidelines are intertwined with the idea of starting from the bottom in order to benefit societal success because humane, ecologically sound, fair, and organic foods help us scientifically and socially grow.

To be able to incorporate real food with wellness is an awesome way for me to bring existing knowledge forward to shape future learning.

Happy learning and growing!

Kaidee

Kaidee Akullo (Left) and RFC Team member, Louie West (Right) scooping up Cream Bean Berry at Apple Days!

Kaidee Akullo (Left) and RFC Team member, Louie West (Right) scooping up Cream Bean Berry at Apple Days!

Sunnyside Meats: The Sunnier Side of Meat Processing

By Zack Bukovich, Environmental Center Local Food Fellow

Sunnyside meat

Working as a Local Food Fellow for the Environmental Center at Fort Lewis College, I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity of getting up close and personal with many of La Plata County’s diverse and successful producers.  This summer alone I have had the pleasure of walking the long rows of Mike Nolan’s Mountain Roots Farm, touring the various garden plots beneath the dueling buttes at Twin Buttes Farm; and I have even been towed around in an old wagon by none other than Dave James himself as I received a detailed, behind the scenes look at the practices that make James Ranch successful and sustainable.

This week however, marked a shift in my escapades into the country.  This time I exchanged the sunshine and cool breeze for fluorescent lights and air conditioning, my ragged work clothes for a long white smock and a hairnet, for this week I visited Sunnyside Meats.  Though it may sound like an unappealing change, my visit to Sunnyside Meats had been long anticipated.  For good reason of course; Sunnyside is an essential piece to the local food puzzle here in La Plata County.  Having a USDA certified meat processing facility has made small-scale meat production affordable and reasonable for ranchers in the area.  Without it, most ranchers and farmers would have to drive the 200 miles to Monticello, Utah to get their livestock processed.  For some farmers who harvest their livestock weekly during the high season, this would severely cut into their profit margin, making it nearly impossible to sustain their farming practices.

This lack of locality was, as owner Holly Zinc relayed to us, severely harming the farmers in the area, and many began to consider dropping the occupation altogether. As a longtime supporter of local agriculture, Holly’s father recognized this problem and began working towards a solution.  Being the engineer and innovator that he was, Holly’s father made the decision to invest his time and effort locally, where he worked to design Sunnyside Meats.  And coincidently enough, as time went on, Holly began to take an interest in the business.  After attending CU Boulder, working in the meat department of a local Boulder grocery store and auditing the meat sciences program at Colorado State, Holly herself had developed an interest, as well as the skills and knowledge to take over and develop Sunnyside.  Eventually, in a mutual agreement between father and daughter, Holly took over the business where she still stands today.

This was the introduction Paula, my fellow Local Food Fellow, and myself were given when we sat down at Holly’s desk to learn the preliminaries before setting out on the tour.  After this debriefing, we were taken out to where it all begins, the ‘drop off’.  Here the livestock are dropped off and shuttled into the corrals that eventually lead to the killing floor.  These corrals, however, are not your average corrals, for they have been specifically engineered and designed by Holly’s father to operate cleanly and efficiently, while also providing comfort and ease of access for the livestock.  The corrals are lined with water that flows out of thick pipes as drinking water for the livestock, and the doors of the corrals are designed to mimic that of a revolving door so that one can control the direction of the livestock by revolving the door instead of using harmful methods of shocking and prodding.  Along with this, there is plenty of room for the livestock to move around, for Sunnyside makes a point of not crowding the corrals.

After moving through the drop off, we were brought to the heart of the action, the ‘killing floor’.  Now, I will say that this room is the most difficult to enter if one is squeamish…There are carcasses being skinned, organ meats being examined and of course this is where the livestock are slaughtered.  However, despite this, the room is exceptionally clean and surprisingly free of unpleasant odors. There are three to four workers in this room, three of whom rotate between slaughtering, skinning and processing the meat, while another, the USDA certified inspector, inspects the meats to ensure that they are free from any abnormalities or diseases.  Coincidently enough, while we watching these workers hurrying this way and that, clad in their long white frock coats, a cow was lead into the room to be slaughtered.

Now, I will admit that upon entering the facility, I was a little wary about seeing a slaughtering.  However, once I was on the killing floor, learning the stages and processes behind harvesting livestock I thought; why should I turn my head from such a crucial step in the process?  If I am going to eat meat and gain a full understanding of our local food system, I might as well face the reality of the process, no matter how gory.  So I did, and to be honest, it wasn’t as bad as I had made it out to be.  The actual slaughtering is very quick, and for the most part, painless for the animal.  It all begins with bringing the animal in to a closed coral so the butcher can get close enough to stun the animal accurately and precisely-to ensure that the animal feels no pain.  The stun gun when placed correctly, quickly inserts a rod into the brain of the animal, rendering it in insensible.  When this happens, the animal immediately loses all sense of feeling and cognitive ability, and therefore loses control of its limbs.  It drops down to the ground and the butcher quickly ties up its ankles up to a big chain that hoists the animal off the ground to be weighed and transported.  The animal is then placed over a trash bin where it is quickly cut and bled out.  At this point, the slaughtering of the animal is complete, and it is moved down the line to be further processed.  Like I said, it is a rather quick process, the entirety of it lasting between five and ten minutes.

Following the slaughter, we were led into the ‘aging cooler’.  Which is exactly that, it is a giant refrigerated room, where the processed carcasses are hung to properly age.  This enhances the quality and taste of the meat, and makes for a pretty scary place to play hide and seek!  When in the room, one has to almost shoulder between the rows of carcasses, needless to say, I was very glad that I was wearing my hairnet and long white frock coat.  After the aging cooler, we were taken to the final stages of processing, where the body of the animal is fabricated or cut into primal (major) or subprimal (minor) cuts for variability[1] (think short ribs, rib eye, flank steak, etc.) and then packaged.  In these varying rooms, they have multiple butchers working on the various cuts, distributing them into different bins that eventually work their way into the ‘packaging section’.

We looked only briefly into the packaging section, however we were able to take a good look at Sunnyside’s state of the art packaging machine.  This packaging machine efficiently packages a good portion of Sunnyside’s cuts into air sealed plastic packaging that allows the customer to actually see the product they are buying, instead of it being hidden behind layers of paper wrap.   This viewing of the packaging machine concluded our tour and our in depth view into the processes behind meat processing.

Thinking it over, processing meat is a dirty profession.  But like all professions, someone has to do it.  And as a citizen who values responsible practices that promote the welfare of the environment, the community and sentient beings, I could not choose a better organization than Sunnyside Meats to do the dirty work of feeding our local community.

[1] “meat processing”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 15 Aug. 2016

Green Business Roundtable – Organic vs. Local

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Recently, as an environmental studies major at Fort Lewis College, I have realized the amount of individuals that have dedicated their lives to better the environment. It is easy to forget sometimes when modern culture seems to be consumed with many things but the environment, but last Wednesday I had the opportunity to see the amplitude of the environmentally dedicated people within a small community. I am a volunteer at the environmental center and to thank me the coordinator, Rachel Landis, brought me to Durango’s “Green Business Roundtable”. This monthly gathering of businesses and individuals in Durango that are dedicated to environmentally conscious actions, and have speakers to promote progressive green actions for their businesses. This month Linley Dixon came to speak about local compared to organic produce, which was quite an interesting topic to me, because I often have this dilemma in my personal life. She spoke about the industrialization of organic farming and how it has strayed from its original ideals by being regulated by the government. Linley farms ecologically sound food on a few acres near Durango and sells her produce to local farmers markets in the area. Supporting the local food system gives communities more security for produce, cuts back on fossil fuel emissions from transportation, and fosters support for sustainable small-scale farms. Lindley’s lasting remarks for the crowd was that if we, as a community, support small-scale farmers, they in turn will support us.

Inside Local Food Security in the Four Corners

Do you know how many days of food we have available in our grocery stores in the event that the trucks stop coming over the hill? Did you ever wonder about what a Food Procurement contract is and how it dictates which foods show up on your plate on a daily basis? To learn more about these topics and the inner workings of our Real Food Challenge and regional local food security, check out today’s radio interview with EC Coordinator Rachel Landis on our local public station, KSUT. Rachel will be available for book signings and autographs all day in the EC 😉

http://ksut.org/post/inside-food-security-four-corners

Duke Jackson, 2014 Local Food Fellow, waters tire-stacked potatoes in an effort to utilize space most efficiently for maximum food production in the Environmental Center's on-campus, organic garden.

Duke Jackson, 2014 Local Food Fellow, waters tire-stacked potatoes in an effort to utilize space most efficiently for maximum food production in the Environmental Center’s on-campus, organic garden.

Real Food Challenge

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The Real Food Challenge Team is a part of a national campaign that leverages the power of youth to create a healthy, fair, and green food system. We are working to shift 20% of the money spent on food to products that qualify as Humane, Fair, Local and/or ecologically sound by 2020. With this in mind our Fort Lewis Team is working on education and outreach focusing on what the Real Food Challenge is and why we should choose real, this includes presentations and working on a website that will give students and community members access to information about our efforts. We are also working in partnership with Sodexo to shift what products they buy and training them as to what products count as real under the real food challenge’s qualifications.

I have always been a health nut and I have been a vegetarian for about seven years, so the impact of the food system on the environment has always been something I am passionate about. Working at the EC for the Real Food Challenge has given me a way to reach out to other people and make an impact. Much of the work that I have been doing is communicating with vendors that can increase our real food percentage and working on possibilities for student and community outreach. Through this work I have learned that educating the public about these kinds of problems is very important, it gives them a reason to change their behaviors. When given the opportunity and the information I have noticed that people in our community are willing to change. The Fort Lewis community, though small, has the power to give the world an example of how a community can be conscientious of their impact on the world around them.

Katrina Rachwitz

Real Food Challenge Team