Lehigh Achieves the the Real Food Challenge Goal

You are here

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, Lehigh Dining Services, Purchasing Services, and Sodexo have collaborated on this challenge for the past seven years. 

In 2017, President Simon signed the “Real” Food Campus Commitment, which pledged that Lehigh would purchase at least 20 percent of its food annually from local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound, or humane sources by 2020. This commitment helps Lehigh to promote a healthy food system that not only supports environmental stewardship, but also respects human rights and facilitates campus involvement. 

“Real” food is defined by four categories:

  1. Local: Food sourced from a 150-250 mile radius of campus.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

When this interdepartmental collaboration began in 2013, Lehigh purchased 2 percent “real” food and reached 15 percent by 2019. Upon completing the Real Food Challenge this year, Lehigh has achieved its goal of purchasing 20.3 percent real food! 

To calculate Lehigh’s  “real” food, students in the Office of Sustainability used the Real Food Challenge Calculator and analyzed invoices from campus dining locations 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. 

To learn more about Lehigh’s participation in the Real Food Challenge, click here.