20/20 VISION: The goal of the student-led Real Food Challenge is to get colleges to shift $1 billion to sustainable food purchases by 2020.
What is Real Food?
How do you define “real food?”
Schwartz: There are four categories and it must meet one of the four to qualify as real food: local & community-based, fair, ecologically sound and humane. (There are more detailed descriptions and requirements of each category and varying levels of qualification.)
So the student researchers go through all the invoices and purchasing documents to determine how much of all the food purchased by their school is ‘real?’
Schwartz: Yes, and then the school gets a full report, of total percent and even by different product categories and other analytics. It’s incredibly helpful for universities on how they can continue to improve. Twenty-two schools have already signed on to increase their percentage of real food to 20, 30, 40% by 2020. UMass Amherst, the second largest college foodservice operation in the country, came in at about 9% and they’ve made the pledge to get to 20%. That’s millions of dollars being injected into real innovative food entrepreneurs who are meeting the demands and interests of millennials with sustainable products.
Do colleges come to you and ask to participate or is it students pushing their schools to join?
Schwartz: It goes both ways. Sometimes it’s a dining representative or a sustainability manager reaching out to us and we work with them to recruit students, or more often, it’s students calling us.