Real Food comes to CSUMB

By Yollette Merritt
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Photo provided by realfoodchallenge.org

Real Food is defined as food that truly nourishes everyone: producers, consumers, communities and the earth. The Real Food Campaign was birthed on a Boston college campus in 2007. The Real Food campaign grew into a national movement encouraging students to think about how one can challenge the control of “Big Food” in universities, and re-envision universities as a force for a Real Food future. “The goal is to mobilize young people to redefine real food and build a food system that benefits everyone,” reconfirmed Tlaloc Vasquez, the Real Food Campaign Training and Curriculum Design Coordinator, who joined the Real Food movement in 2015.

The movement aims to shift approximately 20 percent ($1 billion) of existing U.S. university food budgets away from industrial farms towards Real Food by 2020. Momentum was picked up in California when the Real Food Challenge was included in the California State University Sustainability Policy, approved by the Board of Regents, and encouraged by student advocacy. One outgrowth is the California State Universities’ Food Systems Working Group whose mission is to further food sustainability efforts, new projects and policy recommendations.

The California State Universities’ Food Systems Working Group consists of students, professors, technical experts, dining management staff, producers and administrators from all 23 campuses and respective communities. By signing the Real Food Campus Commitment schools not only commit to buying at least 20 percent Real Food annually by 2020, thereby using their tremendous purchasing power to support a food system that strengthens local economies, but also respect human rights and ensure ecological sustainability. This becomes an obligation for a multi-year action plan and increases awareness about food systems on campus.

California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) is known for addressing eco-friendly issues but student leadership, according to Vasquez, has made the program more robust. The first CSUMB RFC report was completed by student Stephanie Yee in 2016 as part of her capstone, followed by a 2017 report with the former food service provider, Sodexo, assisted by student employee Rebecca Pope. The campus-wide initiative was upped a notch this semester when the dining food services hired a student sustainability intern “with a passion for sustainability and building a more sustainable food system and interest in the overall food supply chain, food justice, and food insecurity issues.”

The role of the intern is to work with A’viands’ Sustainability Director – as well as other sustainability officials throughout campus – and focus on the implementation and reporting of RFC progress at CSUMB. “A’viands is working diligently to be the premier food service provider for CSUMB and support the entire campus community every step of the way. From our philanthropic efforts, community events to raise awareness and education, and other programs, A’viands is taking every measure possible to ensure that we are always putting our best foot forward in partnering and sourcing the best, local, and healthy options that are available,” stated Ashley Lin, A’viands Sustainability Director. “Supporting programs like the Real Food Challenge is just one of the ways that A’viands is striving to help build a stronger food system for a better tomorrow.”

“The real food challenge is a very comprehensive way to evaluate the social justice and environmental impacts of our food choices,” said Lacey Raak, CSUMB’s Director of Sustainability, “Food is perhaps the most recognizable intersection of social justice and environmental sustainability. Completing the RFC and making progress towards the 20 percent Real Food goal is an essential part of deconstructing a food system that has been steeped in inequality, inequity, discrimination, pollution in land and water as well as behaviors that are toxic to people and the environment.”

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