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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?’

DRIVING FORCE: One of the key principals guiding the organization is that students are collectively able to demand and achieve widespread structural and social change. 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.