College Council (CC) passed a resolution in support of the Real Food Challenge, a program sponsored by the non-profit organization The Food Project, Inc. and started by Anim Steel ’94 with the goal of “harnessing the power of youth and universities to build a healthy, fair and green food economy,” according to the organization’s website. We at the Record see the benefits of the Real Food movement, but hope that the administration can outline its own commitment to these issues.
Signing the Real Food Campus Commitment means that the College pledges to purchase 20 percent real food by 2020, which is defined as “food which truly nourishes producers, consumers, communities and the earth. To meet the definition of “real food,” foods must have one of the following four attributes: local and community-based, fair, ecologically sound and humane.
While we recognize the good intentions of the Real Food Challenge and the importance of standing in solidarity with other universities who are making the effort to improve their food purchasing practices, we hesitate to fully sign on to the commitment.
We worry that some of the qualifications outlined by the Real Food Challenge may be too ambiguous and not always strict enough. We worry that our name and reputation at the College could be connected to a standard that we can therefore not regulate.
Rather, we at the Record would like to see the College create its own standards through which it may appropriately and reliably track its progress. We are in a unique location in the rural Berkshires and given the local food production, we can easily meet our own sustainability goals. These goals could embody the spirit behind the Real Food movement that is growing among the student body without necessarily being tied to the Real Food Challenge itself.
However, we still hope to see the same measure of transparency and accountability that signing the Campus Commitment of the Real Food Challenge would entail. We hope the College will make public a concretely outlined plan. Such a plan could build off the efforts that Dining Services and the administration have already made and give us room to expand.
The Challenge wants to formally codify standards for healthy food systems and create a knit community of schools who can bring national attention to the issue. We at the Record urge the administration to put its institutional weight behind its own list of goals to ensure that we continue to take steps in the right direction and improve our food purchasing.