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About Real Food Challenge

Our Vision 

The Real Food Challenge leverages the power of youth and universities to create a healthy, fair and green food system.

Our primary campaign is to shift $1 billion of existing university food budgets away from industrial farms and junk food and towards local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound and humane food sources—what we call “real food”—by 2020.

The Real Food Challenge also maintains a national network of student food activists—providing opportunities for networking, learning, and leadership development for thousands of emerging leaders.


What is Real Food?

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Core Principles

These 6 principles guide our work.

1. The Real Food Principle: Real food encompasses a concern for producers, consumers, communities, and the earth. We use this term to recognize that both the food system and the food movement must encompass and embrace a diversity of foci; "real food" represents a common ground where all relevant issues from human rights to environmental sustainability can converge.

 2. The Movement Principle: RFC is part of a larger food movement, which itself is one facet of a global movement towards a just and sustainable world. We understand that true, lasting social change (a change in both people and structures) happens through social movements.


 3. The Youth Principle: Young people in general (and students in particular) are, and will be, a driving force in this movement because of our collective ability to demand and achieve widespread structural and social change. A focus on students has further benefits and ripple effects due to our: economic power (directly and through our institutions), energy and creativity, high standards, influence on dominant culture, and eventual roles as decision-makers in the family and society.


4. The Partnership Principle: While students are vital to the movement, we should not go it alone. Collaboration with administration, dining services, producers, community groups, and other allies will be critical to this movement and important for reaching our goals.


5. The Multi-Cultural Principle: Many of the problems of our food system are problems of oppression, historical and current. The path of progress, therefore, involves dismantling oppression at all levels (personal, interpersonal, structural, and cultural) and building a multi-cultural movement which actually thrives on and utilizes difference.


6. The Participatory Principle: We seek to balance a drive for results with attention to how we get them. Believing the ends reflect the means, we seek a means that maximizes participatory planning, decision-making, and leadership structures. As a unique place for the different grassroots networks to meet and strategize together, central to RFC is creating an intentional space where all voices are heard and respected.



The Real Food Challenge is supported by charitable foundations, individual donors, and event-based revenue such as registration fees.
Foundations represent the majority of our funding. Below is a complete list of foundation supporters, past and present.
Cedar Tree Foundation
Claneil Foundation
Clif Bar Foundation
Compton Foundation
Do Something
Echoing Green
Farm Aid
High Meadows Foundation
John Merck Fund
Kendall Foundation
New World Foundation
Small Planet Fund
The Zimmerman Foundation

Special thanks to the Zimmerman Foundation and the Cedar Tree Foundation who invested in us when RFC was still just an idea.  Indeed, we appreciate all of the funders out there who allow initiatives like ours to push the envelope, take risks, and serve our communities.


To read more on our organizational history, click here.