University hosts food summit

UVM’s Real Food Challenge organization held its first-ever summit in the Davis Center Oct. 16-18.

The Real Food Challenge is a student run initiative. The purpose is to change the sourcing of food on campuses nationwide.

UVM’s goal is to get 20 percent “real food” by 2020.

“Real food” is food that is from independently or cooperatively owned products that are less than 250 miles from campus, ecologically sound, fairly traded or humane. To meet the challenge, the product only has to meet one of these categories, according to the Real Food Challenge website.

The summit was open to the public, and students from Middlebury, Champlain College, and Sterling College.

“The Real Food Challenge summit is a space for students from throughout the state to learn how to use their voice, and their university’s purchasing power, to shape a food system that reflects their social and environmental values,” said senior Olivia Percoco, president of the Real Food Revolution.

Percoco said the event was for anyone who was interested.

“You do not have to have any prior food systems knowledge to attend and ‘keep up,’” Percoco said.

“The summit was designed to have two tracks specifically for this purpose: one for developing baseline knowledge about the food system, and the other for students looking to escalate food systems campaigns on campus and beyond,” Percoco said.

The event took place over the weekend and included workshops, speakers and free food from local farms and companies like Catamount Farm, Shelburne Farm Market and Sugar Snap Catering, who sponsored the event.

Percoco said she was particularly excited for a Food Justice Intensive which took place Oct. 17 and for the Branding Vermont and the Future of Food Symposium Oct. 18.

“Overall, a lot of questions, and some criticisms of the Real Food Challenge [were] ad- dressed,” Percoco said. “Participants will have a more holistic view of the complexities of our food system, since we are going to be addressing both the producer and consumer side of things, as well as global versus local.”

The event covered what UVM’s Real Food Challenge aims to achieve, both at UVM and nationally, how real food is calculated and the challenges institutions face when sourcing real food straight from the UVM dining services.

“The Real Food Challenge is interesting because it is signed by the president of the college, but ultimately whoever is doing the dining is implementing,” said Caylin McKee, UVM dining’s sustainability manager.

“It is a ground fall from the student body,” she said. “There is a lot of misinformation on campus that it is a Sodexo commitment or that it is a green- washing but it is totally student driven,” McKee said.

Speakers from different organizations, including dining service managers from different schools around the area spoke about the challenge of sourcing real food and what they are doing to overcome these challenges at the summit.

Some challenges they face are working with the dining services to implement the changes, in addition to working to make this a permanent policy at UVM and finding local farms who can provide the amount of food needed.