UVM commits to more “real food”

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UVM signed the Real Food Campus Commitment March 22, which was issued by the Real Food Challenge (RFC). The agreement commits UVM to serving 20 percent “real food” throughout the campus by 2020. 

The ceremony held at Brennan’s Pub included speakers UVM interim President John Bramley, Melissa Zelazny, general manager of UVM’s University Dining Services and junior Katie Bekel, president of Slow Food UVM

Slow Food UVM is a student group dedicated to increasing student and community awareness about issues of food systems and food justice, along with encouraging a shift in University food purchases toward more sustainable and locally supportive options, according to the group’s Facebook page. 

The University chapter is affiliated with Slow Food Vermont, the state chapter of the international organization that advocates clean and fair food, and RFC, which promotes “real food,” according to www.realfoodchallenge.org.

At the ceremony, Bramley stated that he is proud of how University Dining Services has changed due to the student involvement. 

“One of the wonderful and healthy parts of this institution is that we have students who care about the world … and a university that listens to [the students’ ideas],” he said.

UVM is the fifth school in the nation and the first large school to take on this challenge. Currently, 12 percent of UVM’s menu is confirmed as “real food.”

“Real food” is determined by four categories – that it is local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound, and humane – and is calculated by the program’s Real Food Calculator, which can be accessed on their website.

Brennan’s Pub, where the ceremony was held, is currently serving 54 percent “real food,” which is tracked and recorded by students on a semi-annual basis, Zelazny said. The percentage is even higher during spring. 

“Having a restaurant on campus that is committed to locally produced food … is unique,” she said.

The restaurant’s walk-in fridge contains a variety of fresh food from Vermont farms and other local venders, including short ribs, beef shoulders, sirloin tips, fresh produce, several Vermont cheese bins, maple syrup and a large amount of bacon from the North Country Smokehouse in New Hampshire.

The Real Food Campus Commitment creates a huge market for fresh Vermont food and family-owned Vermont farms, Turner said. However, food from outside of Vermont can also be considered “real food.”

“Bananas and coffee are never going to be local, but they can be fair trade,” Bekel said. 

She said she believes that the University can be a leader for other Vermont state colleges when it comes to providing campuses with locally grown, fair trade, of low environmental impact and humanely produced foods.

According to Bramley, the University looks forward to the challenge.