How “Real” is Commons Food?

By Sophie Maloney

As I grab a bagel, pop it in the toaster, sleepily pour a cup of coffee and find some ruby red strawberries to put on my plate, I often find myself wondering where all the food in Commons comes from. Clara Baker ‘13, Matt Walthius ‘14, Michelle Koenig ‘13, Kyle Schwab ‘13 and I decided to find out.

With all the talk on campus about food (co-ops, quality, potential change in companies) we decided to partner with a national organization called the Real Food Challenge to find out. We used the Real Food Calculator to research and evaluate companies to determine if they were providing us with “Real Food.” Real food falls under one of the following categories: fair (good wages, worker benefits, employee rights to organize), local (grown within 250 miles of Beloit, through community based companies), ecologically sound (organic, biodynamic, good environmental growing practices), or humane (free-range, grass-fed, happy animals).

After many hours of sifting through invoices, entering data, calling companies, and occasionally banging our heads in frustration at the lack of transparency in the U.S. food system, we finished auditing one month of the food we buy at Commons. We found that 16.96 percent of the food in commons is Real. However, 15.85 percent is Real Food B, meaning that it only met one of the criteria for Real Food (this was most often the “fair” category). 1.11 percent of the food at commons met two or more categories and was considered Real Food A.

So it turns out that my usual breakfast was pretty “Real,” although I would benefit from getting toast on wheat berry bread, instead of going for a high fructose corn syrup saturated bagel. Commons has local, organic, cage-free eggs available as well, but you have to request them at the grill.

If you have any questions regarding our findings, email me at maloneys@beloit.edu or check out the real food website.

Real Food at Commons:

Real Food B unless otherwise indicated.

RF A: Real Food A

Coffee- Caffeine (not
decaf) RF A
Eggs RF A*
100% natural Wheat
Berry Bread RF A
Forever Bagels**
General Mills Cereals
Rice Milk
Soy Milk
Buttery Spread (in the
Plain Low Fat Yogurt
Simply Van yogurt

Lettuce Spring Mix
Squash (Zucchini)
Squash (Yellow)
Red Pepper
Yellow Onions
Pepper Jack Cheese RF A
Muenster Cheese

Tofu, Extra Firm, Organic
Cooked and Peeled
Steak used for Stir-fry
Soy whip-cream (used on
vegan deserts)
Frozen Yogurt
*All shelled eggs are local, but you have to specifically ask for the organic and cage-free eggs!
**These were sold last Feb, but are no longer provided in commons



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