Students are pushing for a formal commitment to ensure that 30 percent of Western Washington University's food purchases will meet sustainability requirements by 2020.
The Students for Sustainable Food club promotes the idea that food offered on campus must be organic, local, humane or fair trade to qualify as “real food.”
An initiative that would increase the amount of sustainable food offered on campus was added to the spring ballot April 9, after the club gathered more than the necessary student signatures, said club President Davis Trapp.
The club submitted the initiative to the Associated Students during winter quarter.
The initiative is part the Real Food Challenge, a national effort to shift $1 billion in annual contracts of the campus dining services industry across the country, offering more real food to more students.
If the initiative is passed by Western students during the May elections, the next step is to get Western President Bruce Shepard to sign a document that officially recognizes the university as a member of the Real Food Challenge, Trapp said.
Roughly $5 billion is spent on campus food for colleges and universities across the country each year, said club board member Adam Gillman. If every college shifts at least 20 percent of their food purchases to real food by 2020, the campaign will be successful, he said.
The overall campaign goal is to shift the demand in food, making sustainability in agriculture more of a visible priority on college campuses.
Aramark, Western’s food distributor, has declined to comment on the amount of real food supplied to the campus, club members said.
The company uses a campus food calculator, provided by the Real Food Campus Commitment, to determine how much of their food is real. The last time the club sought real food statistics was in the fall, Trapp said.
The lack of information about campus food can pose problems for students, especially those who live on campus, said Eddy Ury, club treasurer.
“There is no transparency about the sourcing of food offered on campus,” said Ury. “That’s what we’re trying to change.”
Students living on campus are required to pay for a meal plan, Ury said. The costs for Western’s 2013 annual meal plan are between $7,147 and $10,887.
However, Trapp said he thinks Western is more advanced in its sustainability efforts than many other schools.
“That movement has been spurred by students,” said Gillman.