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Students want real food to be real issue

Members of UNC Real Food Challenge talked to students about what Real Food is and the group's goals for the semester in Davis Courtyard on Wednesday.
Members of UNC Real Food Challenge talked to students about what Real Food is and the group's goals for the semester in Davis Courtyard on Wednesday.

Leaders of the UNC Real Food Challenge gathered on Feb. 17 in the Davis Library courtyard to inform students of the need for “real food” at UNC.

“Real food is food that truly nourishes producers, communities, consumers and the Earth,” said Claire Hannapel, director of UNC Real Food Challenge.

UNC Real Food Challenge is part of a national network of college groups that support sustainable food.

UNC’s group has an online petition advocating for Chancellor Carol Folt to sign the Real Food Campus Commitment, which requires 20 percent of the University’s food purchases to be real food by 2020.

“We’re gaining signatures to show Chancellor Folt that there is widespread support for getting more real food on campus,” said Alexandra Willcox, a leader of UNC Real Food Challenge.

This is not the first time students have campaigned for a chancellor to sign the Real Food Challenge. In 2011, students advocated for Chancellor Holden Thorp to sign, but he refused.

Scott Myers, UNC’s director of food and vending, said he agrees real food is important.

“We all share a common goal of wanting to make food services sustainable,” he said.

Myers said in recent years, the University has been more diligent and informed about purchasing food.

“As you spin the thing back six or seven years, we really didn’t know where everything was coming from. Now we have a tracking system in place that enables us to gauge where something is coming from,” he said.

Myers said the University would probably reach 20 percent real food this year.

“We’ve already adhered to a number of the conditions in the Real Food Challenge,” he said.

Though many improvements have been made, Hannapel said the commitment is important because it will keep the University accountable.

“The Real Food Campus Commitment would institutionalize a lot of the work that has been done in the past,” she said.

Myers said he appreciates the students who are trying to improve the quality of food served at the University.

“We’ve enjoyed a positive relationship with the students who are advocating for the Real Food Challenge. We’ve been able to partner with them on a lot of different events,” he said.

Though a decision about the campus commitment has not yet been made, Myers said they have agreed to continue a dialogue.

Hannapel said she has high hopes for a future of guaranteed real food at UNC.

“Really we are looking to make this a big thing. It’s a big ask to commit to something like this, but it’s extremely important,” she said.

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