Southern Oregon University officially joined other universities across the country in working toward sustainable food practices when President Linda Schott signed the “SOU Real Food Campus Commitment” this morning.
“I just want to say ‘thank you’ to all who will be doing this work on behalf of the university,” the president told a group of students and staff affiliated with SOU’s Ecology and Sustainability Resource Center (ECOS). “My job is the easy one, just signing this.”
SOU became the first Oregon university to join the “Real Food Challenge” by pledging to support ecologically sustainable, humane and socially equitable food systems. The university agreed that at least 20 percent of its food budget by 2023 will be spent on “real food” rather than unhealthy products or those produced by industrial farms.
Vice President for Finance and Administration Greg Perkinson, who co-signed the document with President Schott and student leaders of the project, congratulated the students for their perseverance in what has been a lengthy process. “There’s so much all of you do to make a difference,” he said.
SOU joined more than 40 U.S. universities and four university systems – including both the University of California and California State University systems – by participating in the student-led Real Food Challenge. The movement’s goal is to commit $1 billion of the annual food budgets of U.S. universities to real food.
The Real Food Challenge was founded in 2007 by a group of student activists, national food movement leaders and higher education sustainability experts. It is now a self-funded project of TSNE MissionWorks, a New England organization that partners with various nonprofits.
Jill Smedstad, the university’s environmental and community engagement coordinator, said Friday’s signing marked a transition from “the campaign mode to the implementation mode” of the Real Food Challenge.
SOU committed to establishing a transparent reporting system and filing an annual progress report to evaluate it food purchasing practices; to create a food systems working group that will develop a “real food policy” and multi-year action plan; and to increasing awareness of ecologically sustainable, humane and socially equitable food systems.
Progress toward the project’s long-term goals is expected to begin immediately. Within a month, the university will be expected to complete a baseline food survey. Food service providers, distributors and others will be notified within three months that future contract terms will need to align with SOU’s new real food policy and multi-year action plan.