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Real Food Challenge

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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 for the last four years. 

President Simon recently signed the “Real” Food Campus Commitment, which pledges 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.

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.

Progress Timeline

Yearly Assessment Results

First Assessment

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

   First Assessment 2013-2014 Results


Second Assessment

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.

Second Assessment 2014-2015 Results


Third Assessment

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.

Third Assessment 2015-2016 Results

Fourth Assessment

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.

Fourth Assessment 2016-2017 Results

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!

Eat More Real Food at Home Too!

Bethlehem Farmers' Market

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