Green Business Roundtable – Organic vs. Local


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 😉

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


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

Creating a Local Food System…and learning how to create social and environmental change along the way

The Fort Lewis College (FLC) Environmental Center’s Campus Garden in Durango, Colorado is home not only to organic veggies and herbs, but also to two Local Food Fellows. These dedicated students learn how food systems create environmental and social change….by ultimately building their own. Throughout their time in our garden and greenhouse, our Local Food Fellows discover the in’s and out’s of sustainable food production. They also distribute what they’ve produced to the people who need it the most and ultimately share their newly acquired knowledge through free workshops.

In the meantime, our Fellows’ view of the world deepens, they become stronger individuals and engage as committed citizens. Current Fellow, Kelly Ann Maes, believes her work matters because, “securing Local Food in this area is vital to the health and wellness of all community members and youth in particular as they are the future”.

This year, our Sow It Forward grant enabled the Local Food Fellows to expand what Fellow, Duke Jackson, loves the most: “creating positive change in our community”. As a result of our revitalized greenhouse and hoop structures, we have extended our growing season and can provide more food and education to individuals in need. Thank you, Kitchen Gardeners International!


Greenhouse and Hoop House Remodel Hoop Houses_S15 Squash Starts_S15 Kelly Ann & Duke Greenhouse interior

December Real Food Day event arriving

Food – one of our many basic needs that has one of the hugest impacts on our planet.  As a new member to the Real Food Challenge Team (RFCT) this year, I’d say my knowledge of food was like the rest of the general population. Becoming part of this team had taught me to question how my dinner has arrived to my plate.  Did the individual who picked my food have a livable wage? Are there harmful chemicals in my food that could harm my family and I?

Questioning how ethical your food really is helps you to realize the impact you have as an individual. The RFCT is aiming to have 20 percent of “real” food on the Fort Lewis College campus, and currently the “real” food calculator is at 4.36 percent.   If you don’t know by now, “real” food is not only local but also ecologically sound, fair-trade and humane food products.  We are excited about the outcome from Food Day October 24, as our partner Sodexo is making it a monthly event.  The monthly real food meals will be starting next month before the semester ends, so if you didn’t get to try Sodexo’s real food menu in October, here is your chance again before it’s all gone.  It was such a success the last time I didn’t get a chance to try it, but I heard it was delicious.  So you’ll bet I’ll be there this coming December to try it. 

If you voiced your desire for real food during the recent Food Day, your voices are being heard. Thanks for helping us progress as a school and a community.  If you have yet to attend a real food event, bring your friends and write a comment on Sodexo comment cards, or “vote with your dollars,” using your purchasing power to request real food items.  The numbers will also show support as it did for the Food Day event in October – 300 people were served from the real food menu, compared to the usual 200 in the cafeteria.  So with that, you guys are awesome, thank you all!  Keep going!

By Larissa Mexican, Real Food Challenge team member

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.

Real Food Challenge Team members promote Real Food Day, a meal which provided local foods to students made possible by the partnership of the school's food vendor, Sodexo, and the EC.

Real Food Challenge Team members promote Real Food Day, a meal which provided local foods to students made possible by the partnership of the school’s food vendor, Sodexo, and the EC.

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

Sodexo sourced ingredients for the Food Day meal from local Durango farmers, meeting at least one of the four criterion of the Real Food Challenge.

Sodexo sourced ingredients for the Food Day meal from local Durango farmers, meeting at least one of the four criterion of the Real Food Challenge.

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

Sodexo supplies students with a local food meal

Students of Fort Lewis College enjoyed a lunch that was fresh, delicious, and in sync with their ideals last Thursday, October 24, 2013. Together, Sodexo Dining Services and students from the Environmental Center compiled and promoted a meal made with “real” food to celebrate Food Day. In total, approximately 300 people were served.

So what is real food? Real food is something that you eat— it comes from your community (Local). It ensures that the producers or farmers who grew it got paid a fair price (Ethical).  If what you eat includes animal products, then these animals are kept content and healthy (Humane). Finally, this food is something you put in your mouth that is not produced in ways harmful for the planet (Environmentally Sound).

If reading about those types of foods makes your stomach grumble, don’t worry, there will be more real food on campus very soon. These meals are part of a larger project called the Real Food Challenge. The goal of the challenge is to serve 20% real food in the dining hall on a regular basis. Over a hundred other colleges around the United States have adopted the Real Food Challenge, and we want Fort Lewis to join their ranks.

Are you someone who gets excited about real food, but you know it is out of your price range? Perhaps one of the most exciting things about The Real Food Challenge is that colleges investing a large chunk of money into the real food market will drive the cost down for the individual eater. The Real Food Challenge is pushing for access for healthy food for everyone.

How can you get your hands on some real food and support permanent change on campus? Stay tuned for more meals like this one! These meals are a great way to show the administration your support of the Real Food Challenge. There are also items that are sold on a regular basis that are real: James Ranch burgers, Dessert Sun Coffee, and beets and carrots grown by Fields to Plate at the salad bar! By choosing these items, you can “vote with your dollar” and see more real food on campus. Happy eating!

By Melanie Weber-Sauer, member of the Real Food Challenge team