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USF should investigate Real Food Challenge

Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012

Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2012 00:04

A referendum on the Student Government ballot in February showed that 93 percent of students are interested in signing a “real food” commitment that would require at least 20 percent of the food purchased by campus dining services to be local and require fair treatment of workers as well as higher qualities of food.

Though Aramark, the company that supplies food for the University, has researched the costs and benefits of joining the Real Food Challenge, a national movement on college campuses, it won’t release the information to the public because of company policy. It would be in USF’s best interest to pursue the Real Food Challenge to keep up with its sustainability goals and the opinion of its students.

Though Aramark officials told The Oracle they are in discussions with the Real Food Challenge on a national level, it may benefit USF to investigate this for itself. Given the emphasis on research at the University — USF is ranked 50th in the nation for federal research expenditures by the National Science Foundation and was one of the Washington Posts’ five “up and coming” universities to watch due to its research program — and its focus on sustainability — all students pay $1 per credit hour to the Student Green Energy Fund and the University recently created the Patel School of Global Sustainability — it may not be a stretch for the University to determine the costs of buying local and organic food on its own.

Costs associated with the research should be considered an investment in students.

Buying within the 350-mile radius of “real food” that includes portions of Georgia and South Carolina may very well support not only the environment, but also the local economy. According to the Tampa Tribune, eating local is cheaper and greatly benefits the local economy. Local food uses less gas, tends to contain higher nutrients and is less likely to be genetically modified.

After USF was voted peta2’s No. 5 most vegetarian-friendly college in 2009, it would only make sense that USF continues along the path of healthy eating. According to the Sustainability Tracking and Rating System, a system that measures universities sustainability efforts, USF ranks 1.8 out of six points for sustainability in food purchasing. This rating could be higher when considering that Hillsborough County is the fourth-largest producer of agricultural products in the state, according to its website, and 59th of 3,076 counties in the U.S.

If Aramark does not move toward the real food initiatives, USF should take that into account when the company’s contract is up in August. Students should have a say in the quality of the food they eat and pay for.

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