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Real Food Challenge, UW Chapter
By Emily Chan
Friday, November 7, 2014

Think of what you ate for lunch today. Do you know where your food came from? This is a difficult question for most people to answer due to the complexities and lack of transparency in the food system. Don’t fret yet; passionate students that are a part of the Real Food Challenge are aiming to address these gaps in knowledge to create a more sustainable and transparent food system. The Real Food Challenge (RFC) at the University of Washington is a chapter of a larger national organization committed to working with universities to supply real food to their students. The RFC defines real food as food that is sustainable, local, fair, and humane. Food that has a recognized certification in one of these categories is deemed as real food. The RFC is primarily focusing on three projects this year: advocating for the University of Washington to sign the campus commitment, finishing the real food calculator, and building its student base.

The RFC is working on having the University of Washington sign the Campus Commitment. The Campus Commitment establishes that the university will allocate twenty percent of its food budget to purchasing real food. The Campus Commitment will also establish a food systems working group that will discuss and assist in creating policies that will help the university reach its twenty percent real food goal. Many universities across the nation have signed the Campus Commitment, such as Gonzaga University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. It is the hope of RFC that the University of Washington will join this group to show its commitment to providing real food for its students, staff, and faculty.

The RFC is also using the real food calculator to calculate the percentage of UW’s food purchases that are real food. This will provide the university with data and metrics about how much money they are spending on certain types of food. This will also provide information about which categories of food present the university with the greatest opportunity to improve its purchases of real food. This information will also increase transparency and accountability about what food the UW is purchasing and whether it is sustainable, fair, humane, or local. RFC hopes to finish this calculator by the end of fall quarter. For more information about the calculator, visit

The RFC is also hosting educational workshops to expand student base and education. They held a workshop in the spring about how food gets from the farm to the UW. Over sixty people attended, which shows that there is an interest in learning about where our food comes from and acquiring real food for campus. Due to the success of this workshop, RFC plans on continuing educational workshops this year.

The Real Food Challenge is engaging in advocacy, outreach, and education to expand students’ knowledge about the possibilities of creating and maintaining a sustainable food system at the University of Washington. The goal is to inspire the university to come together and make a commitment to providing real food on campus. For more information about RFC, visit the Real Food Challenge at the University of Washington’s website at and the national website at