Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Food for thought: Group stresses sustainability

Environmental sustainability is a topic that is often addressed at Whitman,  but for one reason or another, whether it is lack of information or simply the fact that students enjoy Prentiss Dining Hall bacon too much, the issue of food is often overlooked.

Credit: Allie Felt

The Real Food Challenge is an organization that attempts to address the lack of information and general knowledge about the impact of everyday food choices. Without demanding that students put down their meat, the program is designed to get them to think about that piece of meat and know exactly where it comes from and what effect they are having on the world by eating it.

That being said, the Real Food Challenge at Whitman hopes to engage students and get them to think and talk about the impact of their food-related choices.

Sophomore Genny Jones, one of the three Real Food Challenge grassroots leaders at Whitman, explained the concept of the Real Food Challenge.

“The Real Food Challenge is a national network of students that are working towards shifting one billion of the dollars spent in dining halls to real food,” she said.

According to Jones, the shift from factory food to “real food” in Whitman dining halls and dining halls across the country is the top priority in the Real Food Challenge.

“Agriculture consumes more petroleum and gas products than all cars in the U.S. On average, each piece of food travels 1,500 miles to get to your plate,” she said.   “Real food is locally sourced and/or community based, sustainable, fair towards workers and humane towards animals.”

Credit: Allie Felt

The Real Food Challenge has two major goals: get 20 percent real food in the dining hall by the year 2020 and start an informed discussion about food on campus. The Real Food Challenge leaders: Jones, sophomore Julia Stone and senior Rachel Williams: are currently in the process of auditing Bon Appétit’s numbers to calculate how much of the food currently consumed is real food. This process takes a long time and requires an extensive amount of work.

Roger Edens, general manager of Bon Appétit, commented that knowing how much real food Bon Appétit currently buys is beneficial.

“I think it would be great to have a baseline for the Real Food Challenge and the way that’s calculated and then have students in the future repeat it so we can see what the change is over time. It takes a tremendous amount of work on the students’ standpoint,” said Edens.

According to Edens, Bon Appétit understands the importance of what the Real Food Challenge is doing.

“We’re really supportive of [the Real Food Challenge], and it really coordinates with goals that we have for ourselves anyhow. Bon Appétit’s internal goals also have a 20 percent figure for farm-to-fork, locally, whatnot. The Real Food Challenge actually expands on that: fair trade [for example],” said Edens.

But for anything to change, there must be a force to apply pressure. This is where Whitman students come in, and the first step to making a difference is being knowledgeable on the subject of food.

“We’re not advocating for a hundred-mile-radius diet. We’re not advocating for the extremes. But understanding what [concentrated animal feeding operations] are and where your meat is coming from and what that is doing to the land, your body and to the people who make it [is important].”

Stone believes that the first step in changing the way that the nation eats is by beginning the dialogue on the impact of food on a small scale.

 “A lot of people care about the food they eat on campus, and we just want to bring all those voices together and kind of really start an active movement on campus,” Stone said.

Williams notes that food is essential to human survival and thus needs to be a topic that is continually considered and discussed.

“What’s so great about food is that it connects community with the environment. It’s like looking at the ecologically sustainable, but also it’s so a part of people’s everyday lives, so you can effect change by just doing small things every day,” Williams said.

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