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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

SEA, Union call for healthy eating with ‘Food Day’

Published: October 28, 2011
Section: News

Students for Environmental Action and the Student Union celebrated National Food Day on Monday, promoting “The Real Food Challenge” campaign to present students with healthier eating options.

Students hosted a workshop in the SCC, discussing how to bring “real food” to campuses that support the healthy eating movement.

During the workshop, students were asked to share their own experiences with food on campus. They had many complaints about the limited amount of vegetarian and healthy choices.

The Real Food Challenge campaign began in 2007 when college students informally came together to discuss how to change food choices on their campuses. In 2008, the campaign adopted an official message, striving to shift “$1 billion of existing university food budgets away from industrial farms and junk food and towards local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound and humane food sources—what we call ‘real food’—by 2012.”

Many schools have already seen a range of healthier options on campus, including 300 campuses with college farms, fair-trade initiatives or farm-to-cafeteria programs, thus moving away from the standard supply of packaged food, according to The Real Food Challenge.

“The amount of money spent funding food for college students is tremendous, yet the food options are not good,” said campaign representative Jessie Yuraw, who recently graduated from the University of Maryland.

Yuraw said he became interested in campus food options when he decided to spend one year living on a farm in 2009. After returning to school he saw the disparity between the quality of food on campuses and on farms.

“On the farm I experienced planting my own food and eating it. I had planted a tomato and it was the most powerful tomato I ever ate,” Yuraw said.

Nina Mukherji, a visiting member of The Real Food Challenge committee, first became interested in healthy choices on campuses when she attended college in a small town and learned about its environmental impact. From there she joined the Wisconsin League of Conservation and saw change in the food movement.

“Just the experience [of] seeing change made me frustrated that nothing is happening at colleges” Mukhherji said.

The Real Food Challenge separates itself from other movements because it engages both college students and recent college graduates.

“We could be working with just farmers, but our focus is more of a holistic view of the food system … to make a systematic change. As students, we have a tremendous amount of power,” Yuraw said.

In addition to advocating for healthier dining options, the campaign also focuses on all food issues concerning producers, consumers and communities.

Mukherji said that only student activism can drive food change on campuses because “a wheel without all its spokes will never make a revolution.”