Supporting a New Food Economy
Lehigh University is committed to supporting a healthy food system that not only supports environmental stewardship, but also respects human rights and facilitates campus involvement. For several years, Lehigh University has been participating in the Real Food Challenge (RFC), a national campaign to encourage campuses to increase the ratio of food purchased from "conventional" to "real" food. The Office of Sustainability has been working with Lehigh Dining Services and Sodexo to take on this challenge. President John Simon signed the “Real” Food Campus Commitment in Fall 2017, which pledges that Lehigh University will purchase at least 20 percent of its food annually from local/community-based, fair trade, ecologically sound, or humane sources by 2020.
"Real" food can be defined by four categories:
Food sourced from a 150-250 mile radius of campus.
Food that can be certified as Fair Trade which confirms that employees of the company have living wages, right to benefits, equal pay etc.
Food that is grown in a way that is safe for the consumer, producer and planet. This includes certifications such as USDA Organic, Rainforest Alliance, etc.
Food sourced from animals that have been treated in a humane fashion. This includes certifications such as Animal Welfare Approved by Animal Welfare Institute.
What is the process?
Using the Real Food Challenge Calculator, students analyze invoices from campus dining areas for foods that are Local, Fair, Ecological, and Humane to determine the percentage of the food budget that is being spent on "real" food. This percentage is broken into the two categories of Real Food A; foods that meet two or more of the four real food criteria, and Real Food B: foods that meet one or more of the real food criteria. The percent of real food A is included within the percent of Real Food B.
What are the yearly assessment results?
The first assessment was based on food purchases from the 2013-2014 academic year in Rathbone Dining Hall. This first assessment resulted in 2% of Rathbone Dining Hall's total being "real" food.
The second assessment was based on food purchases from the 2014-2015 academic year in Rathbone Dining Hall and Stabler Arena. This second assessment resulted in 11% of the total being "real" food. This second assessment was a great improvement from the first assessment, and displays the commitment that Dining Services has given to this project and to the goal of increasing the amount of sustainable food that is consumed on campus.
The third assessment was based on food purchases from the 2015-2016 academic year in Rathbone Dining Hall and Lower Cort Dining Hall. This third assessment resulted in 9% of the total being "real" food.
The fourth assessment was based on food purchases from the 2016-2017 academic year in Rathbone Dining Hall, Catering Services, and Fud Truck. This fourth assessment resulted in 10% of the total being "real" food.
The fifth assessment was based on food purchases from the 2017-2018 academic year. This fifth assessment resulted in 12% of the total being "real" food.
The sixth assessment was based on food purchases from 2018-2019 academic year. The sixth assessment resulted in 15% of the total being "real" food.
The seventh assessment was based on food purchased from 2019-2020 academic year in Rathbone Dining Hall. The sixth assessment resulted in 20% of the total being "real" food. 17% was Real Food B (which means it satisfied one of the four categories) and 3% was Real Food A (which means it satisfied 2 or more of the categories).