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One Month Out: The Power of #CampusFoodDay

on September 24, 2013

Written by Kate Klein, Food Day Coordinator


When I first heard about Real Food Challenge, I didn’t really get it. We’re trying to get local and organic food in the dining hall? I can’t get behind that. There are way bigger problems out there!

Then one day, it hit me: my monthly food budget was rather measly compared to my university’s million dollar one. The defiant absence of factory-farmed chicken on my grocery receipt was not going to even graze Tyson’s outermost orbits of awareness, but a sizable reduction in my university’s Tyson orders very well may. As the largest meat producer in the world, Tyson is not only able to sentence millions of animals to a caged, antibiotic-pumped existence, but also hold a tight grip on farmers, keeping them often in an inescapable debt while barely paying them enough to get by. Alone, I couldn’t really do all that much to change this incredible injustice -- but with my peers, I began to see how I could.


And when I first heard about Food Day, I also didn’t really get it. A day of celebration? For whom? Our food system is overwhelmingly un-celebrate-able! And I knew many of my peers felt similarly.


But I knew Food Day was a force to be reckoned with: scattered actions and events on my campus weren’t impacting national dialogue, but thousands of events attended by hundreds of thousands of people across the country were. Then I read this statement about Food Day: “...and a grassroots campaign for better food policies.” Yes. Totally. In my year organizing students in the Southeast on Real Food Challenge campaigns, I saw firsthand students’ eagerness to change the status quo.

As I started to chat with students across the country about their Food Day plans, I began to hear incredibly inspiring stories. Students at Portland State University were finally organizing together to increase transparency in their dining halls -- a long sought-after goal by students and faculty alike. At Baruch College, graduate students who had worked on the NYC soda ban began to plan for how they could impact healthy food policy right at home on campus. And at UNC Pembroke, students are forming a Real Food Challenge coalition with individuals from all over campus, and their first debut will be a big Food Day fair. The coolest part? None of these conversations would have likely ever happened without the impetus of Food Day.


Now, students from multiple schools across the country are actually connecting and troubleshooting as they near a signing of the Real Food Campus Commitment on Food Day. Over 170 campuses are signed up to host events, and many more will be joining them soon. Students and partners are submitting the stories about the work they’re doing through #TheRealFoodMovementIsHere photo action. Students are running petition drives and starting the dialogue on campus about their power to change policy. And all of this is happening within the context of the bigger-than-ever Food Day, and I couldn’t be more excited.


And you can still get in on this! Promise. Here are ten quick event ideas you can make happen within the next 29 days:


  1. Have a big Real Food Challenge kick-off meeting - set a goal of having 50 people attend and advertise all over campus!

  2. Participate in the photo action, #TheRealFoodMovementIsHere

  3. Host a petition drive in support of your school signing the Real Food Campus Commitment

  4. Get an RFC Regional Field Organizer to do a training on your campus to kickstart your campaign.

  5. If you’re in the Southeast, help bolster the Coalition of Immokalee workers’ Publix Truth Tour happening through early October in various cities in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Alabama. (Any event in October is considered a Food Day event.)

  6. Host a BananaGram Challenge event on campus to urge your dining services to source fair trade bananas -- a good product shift first step!

  7. Table at the student center to tell others about your vision!

  8. Host a screening of Food MythBusters in your dorm or apartment and pair it with some action-oriented discussion questions afterward

  9. Host a potluck in your dorm or apartment and do the same as above!

  10. Coordinate a flashmob -- no campus reservations required!


And once you've settled on your plan, make sure you get your event on the official Food Day map!