Western increases commitment to 'real food' on campus

Western Washington University is increasing its commitment to serving "real food" on campus.

On Friday, April 1, Western President Bruce Shepard signed the Real Food Challenge petition brought forth by the Students for Sustainable Foods.

The Real Food Challenge is a national campaign motivated to change the standard for university food.

The primary goal of the Real Food Challenge is to shift $1 billion of university food budgets away from industrial farms towards local, community-based farms by 2020, said sophomore Environmental Studies major Rosa Rice-Pelepko, vice president of Students for Sustainable Foods.

Along with Shepard, SFF student representatives Rice-Pelepko, Tristan Sokol and Melinda Vickers signed the Real Food Challenge Commitment and The WWU Real Food Initiative Friday. Also signing was Leonard Jones, director of University Residences.

The WWU Real Food Initiative states that the university is committed to the goal of allocating 25 percent of campus dining hall purchasing dollars to “real food” by 2020, as defined by the 2015 standard of the Real Food Calculator. Western spent 18.34 percent of its dining hall food budget on "real food" October 2014 to July 2015, according to the initiative.

Rice-Pelepko defines "real food" as sustainable, fair and local with a focus on consumers, community, producers and the Earth.

The Real Food Challenge only asks for 20 percent by 2020, but the SFF wanted Western to aim higher, Rice-Pelepko said.

The campaign started at Western in 2012 when students wanted transparency about their food and to learn more about campus dining.

The SFF started at the bottom with the recommendation committee and worked their way up the ladder. It was a long road, with multiple negotiations between the administration and the SFF, but the SFF had a lot of momentum, Rice-Peleoko said.

“We created this system that gives students a larger voice directly related to the food they eat,” Rice-Pelepko said.

The SFF hopes that the Real Food Challenge will benefit local farmers and build relationships within the community. It's an environmental and social justice issue, Rice-Pelepko said. The SFF wanted to give more power to the students and hold the university accountable for the food served in the dining halls.

Western is the third school in Washington state to sign the Real Food Commitment, after Gonzaga University and The Evergreen State College.

Photo by Amanda Raschkow / WWU Communications and Marketing intern