Real Food Challenge
The Real Food Challenge (RFC) is 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 since 2013.
In 2017, President Simon signed the “Real” Food Campus Commitment, which pledged that Lehigh will purchase at least 20 percent of its food annually from local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound, or humane sources by 2020. This commitment will help Lehigh to support a healthy food system that not only supports environmental stewardship, but also respects human rights and facilitates campus involvement.
What is "real" food?
"Real" food can be defined by four categories:
- Local: Food sourced from a 150-250 mile radius of campus.
- Fair: Food that can be certified as Fair Trade which confirms that employees of the company have living wages, right to benefits, equal pay etc.
- Ecological: 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.
- Humane: Food sourced from animals that have been treated in a humane fashion. This includes certifications such as Animal Welfare Approved by Animal Welfare Institute.
Sustainable & Healthful Food Purchasing Policy
In 2020, Lehigh achieved its goal of reaching 20% real food. In 2021 the Sustainable and Healthful Food Purchasing Policy was written to expand upon Lehigh's commitment to the Real Food Challenge. The policy establishes a common interpretation of what Sustainable Procurement encompasses within Lehigh University and to ensure University personnel consider social and environmental responsibility as factors in their purchasing decisions. Lehigh still collects data following the Real Food Challenge for purposes of reporting to AASHE STARS, but all future food purchasing goals will be based on the 2021-2022 benchmark year for the SEED policy.
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.
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 purchased from the 2017-2018 academic year in Rathbone Dining Hall, Lower Court, and Fud Truck. This fifth assessment resulted in 12% of the total being "real" food.
The sixth assessment was based on food purchased from 2018-2019 academic year in Rathbone Dining Hall, Lower Court, and Brodhead. 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 seventh 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).
The eighth assessment was based on food purchased from 2020-2021 academic year in Rathbone Dining Hall. The eighth assessment resulted in 22% of the total being "real" food. That's a 2% increase from the past year's assessment.
The results from our report allows Dining Services to identify focus areas for improvements, such as the new partnership Lehigh Dining has with the Common Market of Philadelphia to increase the amount of food that is purchased from local farms.
Click Here to see all of Lehigh Dining Service's commitments to sustainability!
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