by Micah Wilkins, Editor-in-Chief
With president Steve Solnick’s signature, Warren Wilson may become the first college in the South to become a part of the Real Food Challenge, an initiative to move toward more sustainable, local and fair trade food in schools across the United States.
Last week, Student Caucus voted in favor of asking president Solnick to sign on to this commitment, which would set a goal of having 40% of the food served in the college’s cafeterias be sustainable, organic and local by 2020.
This goal coincides with the sustainable food policy already in place, which was signed by past president Sandy Pfeiffer in 2009.
“For me, the cool thing about the Real Food challenge is that it is giving us an opportunity to have a voice, rather than a commitment that was signed before we got here,” said Caucus voting member Eva Westheimer. “It will help the policy that has already been created. The Real Food Challenge makes it more accessible to all of us as current students, because it’s hard to think about big changes.”
The week before the Local Foods Crew brought this proposal to caucus, crew member Beryl Shepley-Brandhorst and Barley Krieger of the Healing Foods Crew attended a conference entitled Breaking Ground, the Real Food Summit, where they learned more about the Real Food Challenge.
“It’s very grassroots,” said Shepley-Brandhorst at the Feb. 19 meeting. “It’s a genuine movement.”
Furthermore, Shepley-Brandhorst added, signing onto this commitment would be feasible for the school’s food provider, Sodexo.
“[Sodexo] is familiar with the Real Food Commitment, and [Gladfleter manager] Brian O’Loughlin has agreed to sign it,” she said. “Sodexo, as a food provider, they are and have been the most willing to work with us.”
If the president were to sign on to this Real Food challenge, the school would need to consider more ways that it could produce its own food. The farm and garden could potentially expand and be asked to increase their production. However, according to Food Sustainability Manager Jenna Marshman, the garden is not at their maximum production. Furthermore, if the school wanted to reach its commitment of 40% by 2020, these crews would need to shift their production so that more food goes to the cafeterias.
Buying local and organic ingredients is not cheap, but according to Shepley-Brandhorst, “if the students want it enough, we can make it work. If we band together as students and get involved, we can make this happen.”
Solnick will have to look into the commitment more thoroughly before signing onto it, and he expects to make a decision before the end of the Spring semester.
“I’d want to study the issue to understand what concrete steps we would need to take to meet the commitment,” he said. “Barring any unforeseen costs, and assuming that our Sodexo partners are supportive, I would likely sign on.”