As part of the discussion of food sustainability at the International Roundtable, Macalester College became the first school in Minnesota to sign the national Real Food Campus Commitment.
“We would love to end these days of powerful food talk with a crowd ready to make a plan for the future,” said student leader Abbie Shain ‘14 in a press release for the signing ceremony.
The pledge promises that Macalester will purchase at least 30% “real food” by 2020. Real food meets any one of the following criteria: community based, ecologically sound, humanely produced, or fairly traded.
The signing ceremony took place last Friday at 3:30 p.m. marking the culmination of work by the student organization Food Roots. Members, led by Shain, Karen Weldon ’14, and Keo Corak ’15, introduced the Commitment to other student organizations including OXFAM, Adelante, MPIRG and others last year to build support across the community.
According to Shain, President Brian Rosenberg agreed to sign the Commitment two weeks ago, as long as Bon Appetit and Campus Life confirmed their willingness to participate.
Weldon met with representatives from Bon Appetit about the proposal and Shain drafted documents for the Social Responsibility Committee. The group met with Bon Appetit’s sustainability fellow, Sarah Piper, who was instrumental to Macalester’s participation.
“With this commitment Bon Appetit is able to team up with the students and the college to work together to continue to improve our already strong commitment to real food,” she said in the press release.
Chefs and students are also exploring other products that local and fair food businesses could supply more cheaply. Piper identified that locally grown black beans are cheaper than their imported counterparts. Bon Appetit has already committed nationally to using meat, poultry and eggs that meet animal welfare standards.
Shain wrote in a blog post that the group had only five days to convince the Dining Services Advisory Group, which includes administrators from the Campus Center & Conferences, Bon Appetit, Facilities and a few others.
“We had no idea that these mid-level administrators were stakeholders and had not been able to base-build with them. … In one meeting, we had to convince them, and we did,” she wrote.
Macalester joins Wesleyan College, UC-Santa Cruz and the University of Vermont as a signatory institution. In an e-mail, Shain had only positive comments on Macalester’s decision.
"Macalester signing the commitment reminds me why I am so excited to go to school here,” she wrote. “I am proud that we take action and live our values. This is about how students have the power to change an institution and how the institution says yes."
In a press release, she said the Commitment was a testimony to the power students at Macalester and colleges around the country have to create changes in their communities.
“[Students] can envision a new landscape and make it happen,” she said. “I am proud to be a student and even prouder to be a student here, at an institution that listens to its students lives its values.”
Food Roots was founded after Shain, Weldon and Arielle Lawson ‘14 attended a Midwestern Regional Training weekend in Northfield, MN.
“Little did we know that that weekend would radically transform the next year of our lives,” she wrote in a blog, “And the very future of our school.”