Sarah Huang 2014 Examines Meaning of “Real Food”

When you think of real food, what are some of the images that come to mind? Fresh fruits and vegetables just picked from the farm? A home-cooked meal? Organic ingredients? For each of us, the definition of “real food” may differ, but now Ursinus has someone who is trying to help us figure it all out.

Sarah Huang 2014

Sarah Huang 2014 working at Longview Center for Agriculture as part of Rich Wallace's "Food, Society & the Environment" class in 2012.

Sarah Huang 2014 is involved in a partnership with Wismer Dining Hall, Sodexo, Real Food Challenge (RFC), and the Office of Sustainability (OS) to figure out what the term “real food” means to students and find ways of implementing these factors into the choices offered in our dining hall.

Huang has always been interested in the connection between people and the foods they eat, but it wasn’t until she came to Ursinus and learned about the Real Food Challenge campaign that she found a way to apply her interests and passions in a professional manner. Huang will work with Sodexo, RFC, and Ursinus’s OS to calculate the percentage of real food served at Ursinus, and encourage more environmentally and socially just food-purchasing practices. She feels that the campaign “gives students a voice in their daily lives and also increases awareness about where our food comes from and why this is important.” A preliminary survey was sent to students, faculty and staff to gauge how the Ursinus community views real food. The aim is to increase campus awareness through community events and educational campaigns.

How many of us really think about where all the ingredients in a plate of pasta have come from and what it has taken to get them there? Huang hopes that more of this information will be made available to students looking to make informed choices about what they eat. “My responsibilities right now are to calculate the percentage of real food that we are currently serving in the dining hall. This will be done by going through invoices from the purchasing department of Sodexo to determine which foods are considered ‘real food,’” says Huang. The categories of real food used by the calculator program include: local and community based, fair, ecologically sound, and humane, although individual students are encouraged to have other ideas on what real food means.

The goal of the partnership is to not only increase awareness of the percentage of “real food” currently offered, but also to increase the percentage in the coming years. Students can get more involved in the campaign by filling out the e-mailed surveys or helping at the Ursinus Organic farm next semester: Sodexo hopes to continue to buy fresh produce grown by the farm for use in Wismer.

What does Huang personally think real food is? To her, it’s “food that does not contribute to a large portion of environmental and social injustice, including unfair labor practices or water pollution from nitrogen fertilizer run-off. It is food that creates a community around the ways we eat and what we eat and the decisions we make.”

Interested in learning more about the campaign or possibly becoming more involved? E-mail Sarah (sahuang@ursinus.edu) and visit the Real Food Challenge website (realfoodchallenge.org).

—By Carrie Putscher, UCGreen Communications Fellow


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