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2013 Real Food Awards Finalists

We received a flood of nominations for this year's Real Food Awards, and finalists were chosen by members of the Real Food Challenge Steering Committee.
Thank you to all those who nominated, and congratulations to all our finalists! Read on below for finalist bios in each category. 

Award Categories


Student Group or Student Activist

Erin Swenson-Klatt and Kevin Dee, Oberlin College Real Food Campaign
On March 13, 2013 Oberlin College signed the Real Food Campus Commitment with a goal of 40% real food by 2020. While this campaign was the result of work by many passionate individuals, the Commitment would not have been achieved without the leadership of two students, Erin Swenson-Klatt and Kevin Dee. Erin has been organizing around food issues at Oberlin since fall 2010, when she restarted Oberlin College’s Slow Food chapter. As the chair of Slow Food Oberlin College, Erin focused on building relationships across campus and sustainable leadership within the organization. Today the organization educates, engages, and empowers hundreds of students each semester through its email list, events, and community based projects. Erin joined early conversations around the Real Food Challenge after working for several semesters with Bon Appetit and campus dining administrators at Oberlin, and has played an important role in connecting students, staff, faculty, and community members throughout the campaign’s evolution. Kevin became involved with food justice and purchasing power conversations as a member of the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association.  Following the initial conversations in Spring 2012, he took on the project of running the real food calculator, negotiated for the signing of the commitment, and initiated the food systems working group. With strong support from campus dining administrators, a student staff position for updating the real food calculator, and enthusiastic interest among students, faculty, and the community for sustainable and just food across campus, Erin and Kevin are excited about the future of real food and a strong food movement at Oberlin College. 

What others say about Erin and Kevin: "Thanks to Erin the group is now well-networked with students, dining admin, faculty, and community members, and it's projects demonstrate a holistic movement toward Slow Food: not just good, but fair, and clean. ... Kevin worked extremely collaboratively with producers, students, and dining managers alike, being extremely thorough and asking all the right questions throughout the process [of the Calculator and Commitment]."



Sunny Kim and Karma Lama, The Hotchkiss School
Sunny and Karma have worked on their school farm for three years, and in doing so developed an amazing relationship with working landscape.  At the farm they grew a personal connection with and deep love for food, food production and the land from which it comes. Their work on the farm has inspired them to fight for food justice. This winter they felt compelled to go beyond simply growing food; they wanted to understand different aspects of America’s food system, what sustainability actually meant, and how their dining hall was managing both of them. Through research and advice from mentors, they got involved in the RFC, which became the perfect tool to track the sustainability of their Sodexo managed dining hall in a standardized manner. Mid way through the project, Hotchkiss became the first high school in the nation to sign the Real Food Campus Commitment! After piloting the calculator, Hotchkiss is currently around 33% real food. Sunny and Karma's goal for this spring is to write a multi-year action plan, which will include a campus commitment to a percentage that is ambitious yet feasible.
What others say about Sunny and Karma: "We were originally using our own working definition but senior girls contacted our Real Food regional coordinator and began educating themselves and ultimately the whole community about where our food comes from and why it matters."


Northeastern University Real Food Coalition
The Northeastern Real Food Coalition's mission is four-fold: bring more nourishing food onto campus, support their newly unionized dining hall workers, support New England’s vanishing small farms, and promote food justice both on and off-campus. The group is a coalition of students from the Progressive Student Alliance, a labor rights and social justice group affiliated with United Students Against Sweatshops, Slow Food Northeastern, and other individuals passionate about bringing more real food to their campus. They launched their campaign on Food Day 2012, where they created a festival out of Northeastern’s farmers’ market and hosted a food justice panel that included dining hall workers, professors, a farmworker from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and other community activists.  Since the campaign launch, NURFC has built a diverse coalition of over 25 student organizations in support of their campaign for real food. Hotchkiss has played a integral role in the recent partnership between RFC and Sodexo by showing the latter that a dining hall can still be economically efficient and profitable while being sustainable.
What others say about the Progressive Student Alliance: "The Progressive Student Alliance has served as the incubator for the Real Food Challenge at Northeastern, connecting the Real Food movement to global labor activism and providing in-house organizer training for all its members.  It is a dynamic powerhouse and has served as a model for other student organizations across Boston."

Worker Leader


Christine Hamlett-Williams (Ms. Christine), American University

Ms. Christine Hamlett-Williams has worked in food service at American University for over 30 years. Currently a cashier with Bon Appetit, she was born and raised in North Carolina, working as a sharecropper. Her love for her coworkers and for the students she sees every day, as well as her passion for fresh and quality food, inspired her to stand up this fall as part of the Real Food Real Jobs campaign. Together with the students, the campus community, and sustainable food allies across the city, the Bon Appetit workers achieved a groundbreaking new contract that significantly improves working conditions and paves the way for increased worker participation in campus sustainability efforts. Read more about the campaign efforts by workers at American. 


What others say about Ms. Christine: "Ms. Christine's leadership at American University was instrumental in raising the bar for both real food and real jobs in that cafeteria. Her fearless confrontation of the general manager as part of a 120 plus person delegation of students, workers, and community allies helped achieve a groundbreaking contract that among other things, gives workers a voice in sustainable food on campus. But the real leadership came from her daily displays of compassion for others, passion for her work, and an unwavering faith in the possibility of a world where everyone is treated with respect and dignity - faith and passion that inspired her coworkers and students alike to take a stand."



Rolando Araiza, Pomona College

Rolando has been working in the dining hall at Pomona College for 7 years, since was 16 years old. He has been a leader among his coworkers through many challenges in the workplace. For the last three years, workers at Pomona have been trying to form a union, and Rolando took the lead speaking out about problems and disrespect in the dining hall. After 16 dining hall workers were fired after a document check, Rolando was the only worker from the organizing committee left. A year later, Rolando and other workers had rebuilt the committee and continued organizing. Working with students is also important to Rolando. He has fought to develop the university's sustainable food program into one that allows workers and students to collaborate in improving their dining halls. Rolando and another worker even took the initiative to bring back a made-to-order omelet bar in the dining hall for students on the weekends after managers cancelled it because he cares about providing food that nourishes students and makes them happy. Rolando is an advocate for high quality food as well as worker training and safety on the job. His motivation for standing up for change has always been the pride he takes in his work and his desire to provide students with high-quality food. Read more about Rolando and other workers' efforts at Pomona.
What others say about Rolando: "Today, almost a year and a half after [mass] firings, he’s a leader in the rebuilt organization, and he’s still fighting for respect at work. I’ve seen how when workers are being disrespected, they go talk to him, and he always backs them up and helps. I’ve also seen how he makes extra efforts to reach out to students and to get to know them. Through the campaign’s many hardships, Rolando has been a strong, tenacious organizer and repeatedly shown his determination to keep fighting until Pomona is a safe and rewarding place to work for everyone."
Norma Vicente, Haverford College
Norma works closely with students in the dining hall at Haverford College, and she is known for talking about caring for students first. She regularly cajoles other cooks for "not putting enough love in the food." She takes building student-kitchen staff partnerships really seriously, but never in such a way where people forget to laugh.
What others say about Norma: "Along with other cooks, workers and kitchen staff, Norma has not only welcomed me, but also taken time to train me in knife skills and kitchen expertise.  She takes building student-kitchen staff partnerships really seriously, but never in such a way where we forget to laugh."


Dayna Burtness, Laughing Loon Farm
Laughing Loon Farm is a small, diversified vegetable and herb farm just south of Northfield, MN.  Owner and beginning farmer Dayna Burtness uses ecological farming methods to grow for about 20 chef partners at institutions large and small, all within an hour's drive of the farm.  Along with delicious veggies, Laughing Loon Farm also grows more farmers through an internship program and nurtures community connections by hosting events and volunteer days for our community. The farm's philosophy has been greatly influenced by Dayna's work with the Bon Appetit Management Company Foundation on Farm to Fork purchasing and farmworker rights, increasing food access and Farm to School purchases at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, as well as assistant managing the first farmers' market in MN to accept EBT, the Midtown Farmers' Market.  When she's not busy farming, Dayna consults on starting college and corporate campus farms and is a proud new member of the Sustainable Farming Association of MN board. Visit Laughing Loon Farm on Facebook and Twitter
What others say about Dayna: "She's put everything she has into making her agrarian dreams a reality. When we read studies saying we need more young farmers, Dayna is the answer."
Will Harris, White Oak Pastures
The Harris family has raised cattle on the same Georgia farm for five generations [since 1866]. Will Harris, a UGA alumnus, now runs the farm, and has returned the operation to the vertically integrated and diversified grassfed production model that his great-grandfather used. After receiving his degree in Animal Science, Will came home to the predecessor to factory farms: monoculture, calves shipped long distances to industrial feedlots, and the use of pesticides, antibiotics and hormone implants were routine. Fed up with the model of farming he was sending his calves into, in 1995 Will began transitioning his operations into the vertically integrated, pastured livestock farm that it is today. In 2007 Will built a USDA-inspected, Zero-waste, red meat abattoir on the farm - a state of the art facility and one of only two in the country. In 2011, he added a poultry abattoir on the farm up to the same standards. No other farm in the United States has had its own USDA-inspected red meat and poultry processing plants before Will. 
Over 30% of the energy needs of the plants come from solar panels.  The beef and lamb are Certified Grassfed, the farm is USDA Certified Organic, and both processing plants are Animal Welfare Approved.  Certified Humane Pastured eggs and USDA Certified Organic Vegetables are now produced on the farm, as well, where 85 employees work and enjoy a daily communal lunch, cooked (of course) on the farm. Learn more here, and visit White Oak Pastures on Facebook and Twitter
What others say about Will: "This man is committed to his land and his animals, and he took a big, big risk to be in southwest Georgia and decide to switch to a radically different type of meat production, at least relative to the past 50 years."
Indian Springs Farmers Association & Point Coupee Minority Farmers' Cooperative
The Indian Springs Farmers Association formed in Indian Springs, Mississippi in 1966 off of a $250 grant from the Office of Equal Opportunity, comprised of seven African American farmers and one white farmer. In 1979, upon realization that nearby white farmers were being paid higher prices for their crops than their African American members, the farmers pooled their money, bought a truck, and began hauling their watermelons directly to Chicago for sale. Two years later, with the help of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, they organized into a formal cooperative. They now have three dozen producer members spread throughout six counties in Mississippi, pumping between $5,000 and $10,000 per week (in active growing season) into Mississippi’s rural economy. The Pointe Coupee Minority Farmers’ Cooperative was founded in 2008, also through the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, and is working with fellow co-ops as well as local restaurants to enable its 14 members to sell produce throughout New Orleans. The farmers from both the Indian Springs Farmers Association and Pointe Coupee Minority Farmers' Cooperative have been instrumental in the success of the Reconnect Farmers Market at Southeastern Louisiana University. 
'The Federation of Southern Cooperatives was developed during 1967, following the work of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, as an effort to preserve African American-owned family farm land in the South and engage individuals in the development and improvement of their communities. It also advocates for public policies to benefit their membership of family farmers and low income rural communities. The Federation continues to support the work of cooperatives to improve communities and protect the ownership of land by Black farmers in the Southern part of the United States.' [source]
What others say about these farmers: "These farmers give us the opportunity to bring fresh, local, sustainably grown produce to the students, faculty, and employees of the University, as well, as to the members of the surrounding community.  Both co-ops have members dedicated to not only providing wholesome food to their communities, but also educating their communities about the importance of eating healthy, unprocessed, chemical-free foods."

Food Service Manager or Administrator

Amy Zupanci 
General Manager for Bon Appetit at Cornell College

Amy is joining the Cornell community from the Bon Appetit account at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. Prior to joining the team at Bon Appetit, she was the Chef and Owner of Fond, a sustainable, seasonal, organic, from-scratch, farmer-driven restaurant where the menu changed everyday, and Township Grocer, a small grocery and wine store that specialized in small boutique wines, cheeses, local and specialty foods. Classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, Amy moved down to New York City to cook and train in the most sustainable and local restaurants and businesses New York had to offer, including: Savoy, Mas(farmhouse), Tocqueville and Vintage New York, a 100% New York region wine shop which featured foods from New York as well. An avid gardener, canner, preserver, Amy cans/pickles/jams/preserves/dehydrates, an average of 25 different items annually. She also eats a whole foods-vegetable based diet, so feeding and educating the students, staff, and faculty of Cornell about a real food, nutrient-dense and wholesome diet is top-priority.

What others say about Amy: "Not only is she extremely dedicated to working collaboratively with the students (she's regularly attending the student environmental club meetings), but also dedicated to getting real food on campus - she's been making connections with local farmers all year, and has an impressive amount of local food on campus already for it being the first year with a new dining service."

Dani Lee
Sustainability Manager for UC Davis Dining Services in partnership with Sodexo 
Dani's role with Dining Services began after she graduated from UC Davis in 2008 with her degree in Clinical Nutrition. The sustainability program within dining services now provides seven paid student positions and nearly 20 volunteer student positions to support various programs on campus including a resident garden, campus grown produce deliveries from the UC Davis Student Farm, zero-waste support for events and foodservice locations that are composting and recycling waste, peer-to-peer sustainability education within all dining locations on campus and sustainable food procurement analysis. Dani is also the co-chair of the system-wide UC Sustainable Foodservice Working Group which boasts over 70 members from across the UC system working to promote and implement the UC Policy on Sustainable Foodservice Practices. 

Dani has been a champion for the Real Food Challenge since its inception as a member of the California Student Sustainability Coalition and UC Davis' Students for Sustainable Agriculture. Dani completed the first Real Food Challenge calculator at UC Davis in 2008 after graduating. Since then, she has been working with students to continue calculating and analyzing food purchases for annual reporting at UC Davis. Dani was also involved in Real Food Challenge Calculator working group in its early stages and has been instrumental in bridging the gap between students and managers at foodservice locations operated by Sodexo nation wide.  

What others say about Dani: "She is a vegan powerhouse that has the passion, commitment and ambition to transform attitudes, communities and policies across America. For the past 10 years, she has been an inspiration to this campus, creating change in endless ways serving as a mentor for many of my peers in this field."


Katie McKenna
General Manager for Bon Appetit at Carleton College

Katie has been working with food her entire career: she began in restaurant management, then moved into corporate food service, serving as a General Manager for American Express for 12 years before joining Bon Appetit’s team 10 years ago. She has spent most of that time on college campuses – St. Olaf and Carleton College, both in Northfield, MN, using all of her resources to bring fresh ideas and events to the campus. Katie has been able to connect with students through the Dining Board, an open forum for students to talk about food on campus; with groups like Food Truth and Firebellies, and with students involved in the Real Food Challenge. These students embrace many of the same strategies that Bon Appétit uses to bring sustainable food to Carleton’s campus. Katie has enjoyed working with them over the years to develop events on-campus and off, nourishing a community around food within students at Carleton and surrounding institutions, and connecting those students to the local community. Events include: the Farm Forum, a convergence of students from several local colleges discussing what real food meant to them; the Farm/Bike Tour, where approximately 150 bikers came out to bike between 7 local farms; and Grow a Farmer Breakfast, a fundraiser sponsored by Bon Appetit that enabled local Latino farmers to purchase chickens to launch a sustainable chicken farming business. 

What others say about Katie: "She is such an advocate for the students, I'm so impressed by how much she listens to and values student input, whether at the biweekly dining boards, or setting up meetings with students to work on collaborative projects."



University Ally


John Gerber, UMass Amherst

John is Program Coordinator for the UMass Sustainable Food and Farming program which has grown from 5 students in 2003 to over 70 today. He served as leader and manager for this major outreach effort of the University of Massachusetts with programs in agriculture, natural resources, youth and family development, and nutrition education. He has also served as Associate Dean in the College of Food and Natural Resources at the University of Massachusetts. John currently teaches courses relating to sustainability at the University of Massachusetts where he provides leadership for the undergraduate program in Sustainable Food and Farming. He continues to investigate ways in which students are encouraged to explore personal growth and community responsibility through service, dialogue, and contemplation. His greatest professional joy is to watch young people find their calling (especially when it relates to local food and farming). He was instrumental in helping to initiate student projects at UMass such as the Permaculture Initiative, the Student Farm, GardenShare, and the Real Food Challenge. He received the highest honor awarded a teacher at UMass in 2008 with the University Distinguished Teacher Award.


What others say about John: "John's support has built the bridge between Student Food Advocates and the University. We are always amazed at his capacity to do good at this Unviersity, and his effort to support our movement does not go unnoticed."



Sarah Wald, Drew University
Sarah D. Wald is an Assistant Professor of English and Environmental Studies and Sustainability (ESS) at Drew University. As chair of the Food Systems Working Group and the faculty advisor for Students for Sustainable Food (SFSF), she worked closely with students as Drew University became the second school in the nation to adopt the Real Food Commitment.  Food Sustainability is a core part of Sarah’s course offerings.  In Spring 2011, her ESS Capstone course focused on campus food sustainability. Students produced a 100 page report on campus food sustainability, completed the Real Food Calculator, and filled the largest lecture hall on campus to capacity to present their findings. This spring, Sarah is advising an independent study in which students are running Drew through the Real Food Calculator for a second time, while the students in her ESS Capstone course prepare a University Food Sustainability Policy to bring before the administration.  Sarah also teaches a community-based learning class on Food Justice and U.S. Literature.  Food Sustainability is central to her research agenda. Her critique of the food movement’s failure to adequately engage with producer politics and immigration was recently published in the journal Food, Culture, and Society. She is currently completing a book manuscript focused on race, labor, and citizenship in representations of Californian farmers and farm workers.
What others say about Sarah: "Sarah Wald has been essential in empowering and initiatinv student involvement in the food justice movement on our campus. ... She has been our mentor, encourager, and continual ally."


Paula Breslin, University of Cincinnati 
Paula spends her days nurturing and inspiring students to make their world better, safer and healthier. During the three years of her part-time appointment to the Environmental Studies program enrolment has more than doubled. She has also served as advisor to the university student organization, Leaders for Environmental Awareness and Protection (LEAP). During that time LEAP has grown into a strong multi-disciplinary group on campus known, as she is, for taking action.

During the fall of 2011 Paula accompanied a group of 30 students to the PowerShift national conference and since that experience environmental activism has blossomed on campus. Last year LEAP members led the UC Beyond Coal initiative which resulted in getting the university’s remaining power plant off coal. This year, Paula stood alongside student leaders in the University President's office as they won support for the Real Food Challenge. Her determination and dedication to students and the environment have changed countless lives, and the University, forever. Because of this, she's a trusted ally to a growing number of environmentally focused students from any and all disciplines across campus and known throughout the city for her forward-thinking strategies for success. 

What others say about Paula: "While she is busy and involved with her own responsibilities, she has still attended every administrative meeting we have had as a sense of support. She initiates emails, utilizes her allies, and constantly offers affirmation for our strategizing."



Campaign Ally

CATA – El Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas
The Farmworkers’ Support Committee

CATA was founded by migrant farmworkers in southern New Jersey in 1979. We are a membership organization, composed of farmworkers, food packing and processing workers, and migrant workers in other industries. CATA members are actively engaged in the struggle for better working and living conditions. Members take collective action to address mistreatment at work, push for a higher minimum wage, participate in the national struggle for a just immigration reform, and grow organic produce in their own communities. CATA was also one of the founding members of Food Justice Certification – a growing certification and labeling program for farms and other food businesses that adopt high standards of sustainability and workers’ rights.

What others say about CATA: "It is also amazing that they are open and enthusiastic to working with RFC students. They showed their support and solidarity by having one of their field organizers, Alexa Malishchak, join us at BG2013. Their work in NJ and across the country is exemplary and fueled by pure passion for their cause." 


David Bancroft, Acre
David Bancroft is a southern chef who showcases local and sustainable ingredients with a nod to his Texas roots. He attended Auburn University’s School of Business and was the Executive Chef of Amsterdam Cafe from 2006 through 2011. His commitment to using locally sourced ingredients has been recognized by Food & Wine, ESPN’s “Taste of the Town”, and several local publications, among many others. In addition to supporting the local farming community, he also implemented a one acre fruit and vegetable garden that he utilized in his kitchens. David is a member of Slow Food USA and the Southern Foodways Alliance, and partnered with Auburn University to create a Slow Food on Campus chapter. He is currently in the building process of a new restaurant, Acre, that will use local, fresh ingredients from an onsite garden at the restaurant and through local farmers ("My goal is to be as sustainable as possible on my acre!") which will continue to raise awareness about food throughout the Auburn community.  

What others say about David: "David Bancroft has proven to be a community ally for Auburn Real Food Challenge.  He completely spear-headed the Auburn Real Food Fest... [and with] ...the money we raised from that fundraiser, we are able to make key improvements to our garden to show the university that people are invested in that land so we have a stake in continuing the garden project for the future."


The Farm to Plate Network 
The Farm to Plate Network is a collaborative of over 225 organizations working together to implement the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan, aimed at strengthening Vermont’s food system. One of the 25 goals in the plan is to increase the amount of local food served at institutions. In November 2011, the Network held a day long forum at University of Vermont with Northeast Sodexo executive management, producers, distributors, and other groups to learn about other each other’s processes and to develop ways to increase the amount of local food procured by Sodexo. The Farm to Institution Task Force plans to hold other similar learning and matchmaking events this year.

What others say about Farm to Plate: "When Erica Campbell [Farm to Plate Network Program Director] was asked to take action and write a letter directly to the UVM president to encourage him to sign the commitment she didnt hesitate one second and answered a resounding YES. Now, post commitment at UVM, she remains an ally and has offered to share information and be of support during the implementation process."