Students voted to continue pushing for real food on campus, despite unknown results of former efforts.
On May 3, the Real Food Campus Commitment passed in Western Washington Univerisity’s Associated Students election, and the AS is urging Western to sign the commitment and be officially recognized as a member of Real Food Challenge.
Since 2010, Western has been using the Real Food Calculator, a tool to assess the product sourcing of campus dining services, to evaluate food on campus. However, no concrete information has been disclosed to students, nor has Western signed a commitment to progress, according to the AS election website.
Information requests from The Western Front were unanswered by Aramark officials.
Real food refers to food that is healthy, produced in a conscientious manner that is friendly to workers, not destructive to the environment and fair to the communities involved, said David Trapp, president of Students for Sustainable Food, the club responsible for the AS ballot initiative.
The food must be local, ecologically sound, certified humanely-raised or fair-trade — trade in which fair prices are paid and carried legally in developing countries — to qualify as real food, Trapp said.
In 2012, Aramark decided not to join the Real Food Challenge. Of all the companies and schools that the Real Food Challenge organization works with, Aramark is the only one not signed on, according to the Real Food Challenge website.
Sodexo, Western’s former food provider, was on track to meet its real food goal, Trapp said. Aramark replaced Sodexo in May 2011, when its contract expired.
The primary goals of the new initiative are to ensure 30 percent of food purchased by Aramark is real food by 2020 and to establish a transparent reporting system for food sourcing, according to the AS election website.
The initiative passed with 92 percent of votes supporting more real food on campus. Now, students are waiting for Western President Bruce Shepard to sign the commitment, Trapp said.
The Real Food Campus Commitment, if signed by President Shepard, will give students more sustainable and healthy food options on campus, Trapp said.
Food prices on campus do not reflect the actual quality of the food, said Eddy Ury, budget authority for Students for Sustainable Food. By implementing the initiative, students and the university would benefit in many ways, he said.
“The food price is high because [the university] knows students on campus have no choice but to buy the food on campus, which is low quality and overpriced,” Ury said. “We could be serving substitutes that are better quality [and] grown more sustainably without increasing the cost.”
Students deserve healthier and more sustainable food that reflects their values, Ury said.
“There are many students who would like to be conscious about food they consume,” Ury said. “Right now, there are not a lot of options for them.”
The Real Food initiative is part of a national student movement called the Real Food Challenge, urging universities and their food distributors to be transparent about the sourcing of food served on campus. The initiative also aims to shift $1 billion of annual college food purchases away from industrial agriculture toward real food, according to the Real Food Challenge website.
“All we want are the commitments to progress and the transparency act,” Ury said. “It won’t cost the school anything to implement.”