This change has not come without pushback
from the conventional agribusiness sector. When students’ calls for change led top-rated Virginia Tech Dining to switch to cage free eggs
university soon received angry calls from the state’s industrial egg layers association and their allies in the state’s political establishment.
The campaign has also seen resistance from Aramark
– one of the largest multi-national food service companies - which operates cafeterias at 500+ universities. Unlike some of their competitors, this company has refused to sign on
to the movement’s basic transparency standards.
In another surprising twist, the most recent campaign success comes from the Hotchkiss School
, a 9-12 grade boarding school in Massachusetts and the first high school in the country to sign the Commitment
. This precedent-setting victory illustrates just how far this movement stretches: with 14 and 15-year-olds pushing for a just food system. Oberlin College in Ohio is set to be the 10th signatory in just a few weeks.
This spring, all eyes will be on schools like Johns Hopkins University, Duke University and Williams College, where students are urging their university leaders to sign on to the Real Food Campus Commitment as UVM did.
If they are successful, it’ll mean $4,000,000 in additional purchases for local farms and sustainable food businesses, annually. And, for a whole generation of young people who’ve taken diet-related disease, climate change, and corporate control of food as the norm, it’ll mean a new sense of hope and possibility for real change.
"For many of us who’ve been in the food justice movement for 10, 20 or 30 years now, the Real Food Challenge points the way towards a new phase in our collective work," comments Anim Steel, formerly Director of National Programs at the Food Project in Boston.
“If we focus on organizing our communities to influence strategic institutional targets, we can foster new leaders for our movement and grow our power so as to truly challenge and change the established order. That, to me, is the real meaning of ‘real food’.”