A Who's Who of Breaking Ground

February 9, 2013
Teaser Image: A Who's Who of Breaking Ground

This post is from Hannah Wolfe, Communications Intern for Real Food Challenge. 

Over President's Day weekend, students from nearly 90 colleges and universities will converge in Baltimore, MD for Breaking Ground 2013, Real Food Challenge's second national summit.

Students are traveling from as far as Arizona, Washington, and even Alaska (seriously!) to join us, so we thought we'd give everyone a preview of the stellar real food work these students are bringing to the table.

 Loyola University - Chicago, IL

Jackie Gorman, Rose Brickley, Haley Keegan, Maggie Nykaza

Jackie, Rose, Haley and Maggie are coming to Breaking Ground to represent Grower’s Guild, the gardening and urban agriculture club at Loyola University. Grower’s Guild was founded four years ago to promote sustainability, urban agriculture permaculture and general food and flower innovation on campus. Their three main initiatives are the upkeep of the Victory Garden, an on-campus container garden promoting edible landscaping; processing and selling their own tea (LoyolTea); and most recently, their Grow Change Campaign,through which they’re working to bring Real Food Challenge to Loyola. 

Since Loyola is an Aramark-contracted school, these four are learning first-hand how Aramark’s corporate policies impact students’ involvement in their campus food system. Grower’s Guild recently had their first meeting with Loyola’s Aramark representatives to present the Real Food Calculator (which was met with positive feedback!), and plan to present to the Student Government as well upon returning from Breaking Ground. 

Maggie, Rose, Jackie and Haley look forward to the opportunity for meaningful conversation at Breaking Ground, and hope to learn from the experiences of other students farther along in their campaigns. They will also be hosting a workshop called “Beet Boring Meetings,” focusing on their experience with engaging their audience at club meetings and building strong coalitions throughout campus. 

Northern Virginia Community College - Annandale, VA

Adam Dutchak, James Waltz

Both Adam and James are involved with Real Food Challenge at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), a coalition of students working for a “food system that strengthens local economies, respects human rights, ensures ecological sustainability, and facilitates community involvement and education.”

Currently, the NOVA administration is in the process of contracting a new food service provider. RFC at NOVA’s most immediate goal is to get the Office of Purchasing to include “real food” standards in their proposal to prospective providers, to ensure the new company can meet the needs of the students and to enable students to hold them accountable. Having raised the issue at a recent Campus Town Hall meeting, students compelled the Provost to demand higher expectations and sustainable initiatives in NOVA’s proposal - unfortunately, strict standards for real food were still omitted. RFC at NOVA’s next steps are described below, by one of the group’s leaders, Rebekah Ortiz:

“Our next step was organizing a demonstration. Our school held a pre-proposal conference for potential offerers--food companies and franchises--who are looking to be contracted to our four campuses. The school's lack of response to meet with us and their inability to involve students in this critical decision regarding our own meal options had provided justification to mobilize beyond campus administration and take action....RFCers dressed up in business casual and joined in the conference as if we were potential offerers. As the discussion went on, we introduced ourselves as students and passed on our real food proposals to the food companies. When the conference was over, the food companies flooded towards us, giving us their business cards and asking us questions. Essentially, they were lobbying to US so we can lobby to our school for them. This is a WIN --- by getting the companies to work for us, we are having them compete to see who can be the most sustainable, accommodating and able to address our 'real food' needs.”

Impressed yet? RFC at NOVA has also compiled their own 7-page proposal to submit to the NOVA administration. They’re looking forward to the opportunity to build community with RFC leaders from across the country, and to gain the tools and insight they need to continue a successful real food campaign at NOVA.  

Macalester College - St. Paul, MN

Emma Anderson, Abigail Tuominen, Emily Walls, Sam Burlager, Abbie Shain

Emma, Abigail, Emily, Sam and Abbie will be coming to Breaking Ground from Macalester College. They’re a part of Macalester’s student group FoodRoots, a social justice-oriented food appreciation group that has accomplished so much since its inception. FoodRoots helped host one of Real Food Challenge’s Midwest trainings on their campus, hosted a week-long Food Day celebration, and made Macalester the most recent signatory of the Real Food Campus Commitment! They also continuously work to build community around food at Macalester, along with work around privilege and identity in food justice work. 

They’re currently working on building a Food Systems Working Group to begin the implementation work of the Commitment, running a composting campaign, and making plans to host another food week. FoodRoots’ work also extends beyond Macalester’s campus to regional and national RFC organizing: they have close relationships with students at Carleton and St. Olaf College, and recently started a national working group for RFC students at schools contracting with Bon Appetit Management Company (BAMCO). The BAMCO working group consists of students from 15 schools, and works to unify their messaging as well as build student power around student-dining service relations on a national level.

Arizona State University - Tempe, AZ

Kelly Wolf, Shaili Parekh, Shannon Jenkins

Kelly, Shaili, and Shannon are coming to Breaking Ground all the way from Tempe, AZ, where they’re a part of the student organization Real Food ASU at Arizona State University. Real Food ASU works to educate and engage the student body on healthy, local, and sustainable food to create a sense of community centered around valuing food and food systems. They also work with Aramark, ASU’s food service provider, to try to bring more real food options onto campus. Their goals include increasing vegan and vegetarian options in ASU’s dining halls, sourcing more produce locally, and increasing transparency in the dining halls with better nutritional and general labeling of foods. 

Real Food ASU is currently preparing for their upcoming Valentine’s Day event, infusing art and food appreciation to allow students to express what food means to them. They’re also working on a Campus Resource Guide for students to shed light not only on where ASU’s food comes from but which on- and off-campus locations are the healthiest choices, where students can grow food, what CSAs are nearby, and so on. One of their members is also working on a comprehensive survey to determine which values the ASU student body prioritizes in their food choices, to be administered in classes in the near future.

Asked what they’re most anticipating about Breaking Ground, Kelly, Shaili and Shannon answered: “We can't wait to meet and connect with so many driven, inspiring, and creative leaders from across the nation. We want to hear their stories and their own unique ideas that have worked for their campuses. We know we're going to gain so much from the experience and can't wait to implement what we've learned here at ASU!” 

UNC Chapel Hill - Chapel Hill, NC

Rachel Atkinson, Nina Comiskey, Anne E Corrigan, Claire Hannapel, Marisa Scavo

Rachel, Nina, Anne, Claire and Marisa will be coming to Breaking Ground from UNC Chapel Hill, and are all involved in FLO Food (FLO stands for Fair, Local, and Organic). FLO works to educate students and advocate for food sustainability at UNC through their partnership with Carolina Dining Services (CDS), their biannual campus farmer’s market, and public events like dorm cooking classes and film screenings. 

UNC Chapel Hill is one of few campuses contracting with Aramark who have successfully completed the Real Food Calculator, and following the Fall 2012 purchasing period FLO is thrilled to report reaching 20% real food in their dining halls! Their collaboration with CDS has led to many successes, including purchasing local grass-fed beef and hosting bimonthly Green Theme Meals that focus on one facet of sustainable food per meal. Once UNC decides on a new chancellor, FLO plans to approach them to sign the Real Food Campus Commitment. In the meantime, they are planning for several upcoming campus events, including a week of events discussing the vegetarian v. omnivore debate. Rachel, Nina, Anne, Claire and Marisa are excited for everything Breaking Ground has to offer - good food, good company, and inspiration! 

CSU Monterey Bay - Seaside, CA

Gerardo Marenco, Ben Van Der Kar

Gerardo and Ben will join us at Breaking Ground representing three student organizations from CSU Monterey Bay: the CSUMB Garden Club, CSUMB Green Team, and the Environmental Affairs Committee. The Garden Club’s main objective is to promote an on-campus organic garden for use by both the university and the local Seaside community. Most recently they’ve secured funding to install deer fencing around the garden, and are partnering with Sodexo on a long-term vision to source produce from the garden for use in CSUMB’s dining hall! The Green Team promotes sustainable practices amongst students and alumni, and the Environmental Affairs Committee is a student committee working to ensure the visions of sustainability laid out in CSUMB’s mission statement are enacted by the university and on-campus community.

These three organizations are collaborating to close the food cycle on campus, ensuring composting occurs at all food facilities on campus; so far they’ve partnered with both Peet’s Coffee and Starbucks to compost their coffee grounds on-site! Students are also working on increasing the number of hydration stations on campus, and hope to set the foundation for CSUMB to achieve carbon-neutrality by 2030.

Gerardo and Ben are excited to learn more about sourcing food locally, and see Breaking Ground as an opportunity to learn from other students’ experiences in implementing meaningful food programs on their campuses. 

Western Washington University - Bellingham, WA

Eddy Ury, Adam Gillman, Alison Schiele 

Eddy, Adam, and Alison are a part of Students for Sustainable Food at Western Washington University (WWU), a student organization aiming to “educate people about the consequences of neglecting the intimate relationship humans should have with food and about the benefits of supporting local, organic, homemade. and sustainable food” through their work towards real food procurement.  They’re especially proud of WWU’s own CSA program, Viking Supported Agriculture, and The Outback, an 9-acre organic community garden run entirely by students. They’re also working on campaigns to ban bottled water on campus and to lobby WWU to divest from the fossil fuel industry. SSF is especially looking forward to the quickly-approaching end of WWU’s dining contract with Aramark and using power-mapping to begin connecting with influential stakeholders on their campus. Eddy, Adam, and Alison are most looking forward to the learning opportunities at Breaking Ground, and hope to gain insight from fellow students on membership retention, leadership, and on-campus advertising. 

Northeastern University - Boston, MA

Tricia Kiefer, Steffi Klosterman, Brooke Sheehan

Coming to Breaking Ground on behalf of Northeastern University are Tricia, Steffi, and Brooke, where they’re a part of the Northeastern Real Food Challenge. This group was borne out of two other student groups at Northeastern: the Progressive Student Alliance, a labor rights and social justice group affiliated with United Students Against Sweatshops, and Slow Food NU. Their 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. 

Though Northeastern’s RFC chapter has only been around since the fall 2012 semester, they’ve already made great progress. They launched their real food campaign on Food Day, where they created a festival out of Northeastern’s farmers’ market and hosted a wildly successful food justice panel (which drew over 100 attendees!) followed by a locally-sourced dinner catered by Chartwells. Since Food Day, they’ve built a coalition of 26 student organizations in support of their campaign for real food! Next up, they hope to use this momentum to win over their administration (in Steffi’s words, “because signing the Commitment should be a source of pride, not resistance”) and get the Real Food Campus Commitment signed. 

Asked what they’re most looking forward to about Breaking Ground, Tricia, Steffi and Brooke answered: “Looking forward to meeting new friends in the spirit of collaboration when dozens of Real People come together. And the food, music, and poetry!”