Get Real! UNH and the growing student food movement

Written By

Written By: 
Annie Steeves

Young
people have always clarified the morality of our times. This sentiment was
echoed throughout this past weekend as the student organization, Get Real! UNH,
had the opportunity to attend the Second Annual Real Food Challenge “Breaking
Ground” National Summit. The Real
Food Challenge
is a growing student movement working toward changing
institutional purchasing power to create a more just and sustainable food
system. I’m sure at this point you are wondering what “real food” equates to.  Real food is food that truly nourishes
producers, consumers, communities, and the earth. The Real Food Challenge has
more in-depth standards for evaluation comprising of four categories:
local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound, and humane. Get Real! and our
peers across the nation are using these categories to evaluate the food served
in Dining Halls and work with Dining Administrators to explore different
options.

I’m sure
you may be wondering how college students could possibly change the food system?
Students have the power to make real change through their University’s
institutional buying power.  Let me
provide some perspective: nearly two-thirds of all universities outsource their
Dining services (UNH is lucky to be self-operated!). Of this 2/3, 93% are
operated by one of the top three service providers: Compass Group, Sodexho, or
Aramark. All three of these corporations operate internationally and make
billions of dollars of revenue annually. Compass Group makes $20 billion, Sodexho
makes $19 billion, and Aramark makes $12 billion. With these numbers in mind,
you may be surprised to learn that McDonald’s only generates an annual revenue
of $24 billion globally. Most people generalize that McDonald’s purchasing
power has immense control of the food system around the world. When observed
from this perspective, however, it astonishes that only the top three
institutional providers generate over twice as much in revenue. This
realization indicates the incredible purchasing power and influence on supply
chains that colleges and universities are part of.

The
University of New Hampshire is proud to be a self-operated school and a leader
in sustainability. We are proud to share our inspiring initiatives with our
peers across the nation. Many schools are unable to talk with their Dining
Administration, do not have any locally sourced foods, and are completely
foreign to the concept of composting food waste to use in University
agriculture. We are very proud of our University’s efforts and recognize how well
we compare to other schools. The Sustainability
Institute
has a large presence on campus and works with Dining to assess
purchases. Through the Sustainability Academy, UNH has evaluated our Dining
purchases and assessed that we have 26% of our food locally sourced within a
250 mile radius. Get Real! and the Real Food Challenge would like to do further
analysis beyond what is local to find out where we stand with national
standards. It is exciting to have a national standard for institutions to be
held to. A standard is meant to be a
benchmark of quality. Too many schools and institutions claim to be “going
green” or to have their own standard of sustainability. The implication of
following one’s own standard is completely contrary to the definition of a
standard. UNH is proud to be part of the movement to hold institutions
accountable to national standards.  

Our
generation will bear the brunt of the current food system. Many groups on
campus recognize this and are involved with food in some way; SlowFood
works to preserve and revitalize food culture, Oxfam works to address poverty
and women’s rights in agriculture, the Student Environmental Action Coalition
works toward changing environmental policies that are often intertwined with
food policy, the Organic Garden Club works to grow real food on campus, the
Freedom Café works toward raising awareness of human trafficking through
serving quality coffees and teas, the Student Nutrition Association works
toward educating peers on healthy food choices, and many students are studying
aspects of the food system every day through UNH’s academic programs such as
EcoGastronomy, Nutrition, Sustainable Agriculture, Environmental Conservation,
or Resource Economics. Get Real! UNH is all-encompassing of these issues and
works to spread awareness of the great complexities and intertwined values of
the food system. Our overarching message is that every aspect of society can be
connected to the food system.

Join the fight toward a more
equitable world and check out one of our meetings on Mondays from 5:30- 6:30pm
in MUB 114F. The food movement is here and gaining power every day. As Carlo
Petrini, Founder of the SlowFood movement states, “We are the fastest growing
peaceful army in the world. The politicians don’t understand yet.”

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