Real Food Calculator
The Real Food Calculator is a tool to track institutional purchasing over time. Though designed for colleges and universities, this tool can be used by any institution, such as a hospital, corporation, or municipality.
Students use the Real Food Calculator as a platform for discussion and action with dining services and administrators.
The Real Food Calculator's definitions represent a consensus among stakeholders on what makes food “real,” and thus sets a standard from which schools can make quantitative goals and track their progress toward more real food on campus.
The Real Food Calculator plays a crucial role in guiding schools’ transition to 20% real food by 2020.
31 schools have piloted the Real Food Calculator with great success, and another 20 are working on Real Food Calculator Assessments.
I. Getting Started:
1. Before running a Real Food Calculator assessment, get in touch with your Regional Field Organizer! S/he will be a major support for your project, so please let us know if you're interested!
2. Click here to go to the Real Food Calculator web application and see the full process and begin your assessment.
II. The Guide
The Real Food Calculator Guide provides a list of criteria that determine what qualifies as "real food." We define real food as food that has 4 attributes:
- Local and Community-Based
- Ecologically sound
The criteria listed in the Real Food Calculator Guide are third-party certifications and characteristics of the producers from which your school buys food. For example, Fair Trade Certified coffee counts as real food under the fair attribute.
To evaluate a food item, we divided the guide into three sections that model a stoplight:
"Green Light": criteria (third-party certifications, for example) that meet our highest standards for real food. This is definitely real food.
"Yellow light”: criteria that do not clearly meet our highest standards for real food. However, the products still count as real.
"Red Light": criteria that don't meet our standards for real food. Many of today's conventional farming practices fall into this category. This category also contains many unsubstantiated and unverifiable claims, like "natural" or "GMO free." This category also includes igredients that disqualify products, for instance, additives that are known to cause cancer or extreme violations of labor laws.
The criteria in each of the green, yellow, and red categories have been thoroughly researched and reviewed by experts. Criteria in the yellow category generally require more research to determine whether they meet our highest standards.
III. The Calculator
Once you have determined which food on your campus qualifies as real food, the calculator will calculate the percent of real food you are purchasing.
The calculator is set up in a google spreadsheet, with food items (beef, eggs, milk, etc.) separated in columns. The formulas are already there--all you have to do is input the total amount of dollars spent on a food item and the amount that was spent on "real food" for that item. For example, if you spent $100,000 on coffee total, but only a portion of that was Fair Trade Certified ($70,000), you would input $100,000 in the total column and $70,000 in the "Fair" column.
After all the data is entered, you can see the percent of real food that you are purchasing. There are graphs already set up on worksheets in the same document, so you can visualize your progress.
IV. The Results
We divide real food into Real Food A and Real Food B. Real Food A is food that qualifies for 2 or more Real Food Attributes, while Real Food B is food that qualifies for just one Real Food Attribute. For example, eggs that qualify as local and humane are Real Food A, while eggs that are only local qualify as Real Food B.
This distinction is made in an effort to recognize various levels of success. While the items included in Real Food B have room for improvement, it is important to recognize that progress is being made.
Note: Real Food A and Real Food B are not the same as Green Light and Yellow Light.