Opinion

Real talk, real food

MARLEE BREUNIG, Contributor
It’s a typical Sunday morning brunch, and you’re happily (or not so happily) munching on a plate of bacon, a bagel, maybe a pile pancakes or a glass of orange juice. Have you ever wondered about the mysteries behind your plateful of munchies?
A group of eight Beloit college students wondered if they could uncover some of the mysteries behind what we consume on a daily basis using the Real Food Calculator. The Real Food Calculator (RFC) determined what percentage of the school’s budget is spent on ‘Real food’. According the RFC website, Real food is defined as “food which truly nourishes producers, consumers, communities and the earth.” The RFC breaks down what food is considered to be real by using four basic categories: local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound/sustainable, and humane.
We researched the companies that supply Beloit with food in order to determine if our food comes from companies that use practices aligned with the ideals of the Real Food Calculator (local, fair, etc.). We then calculated the amount of Real food that Beloit purchases, which is about 12.88 percent of all the food purchased in a month. Our invoices covered 2 months total. 10.76 percent of this food was Real Food B (meaning the food fit into only one of the aforementioned categories) and 2.12 percent of the food was Real Food A (meaning it fulfilled two or more of the above categories). This means that Beloit College has a strong base of Real Food to build on.
We are doing well for a school this size in our area, but we have a lot of room for growth. Colleges in other parts of the country have done their part to join the Real Food Campus Commitment. The commitment states that 20 percent of their food will be Real by 2020, and we hope that Beloit will soon join these other five schools. Five colleges may seem like a small number, however 363 schools have joined the Real Food Campaign, and it is continuing to spread.
Part of getting a campus commitment also depends on working with Bon Appétit next year. The company says they are very open to student-led projects and would like to do what they can to satisfy the student body at Beloit. Keeping an open channel of communication with Bon Appétit is something to concentrate on for next semester.
Working on The Real Food Calculator gave us many of the answers we needed about food at our school, but it raised just as many questions about where our food comes from and how it is being produced. During our research, it was extremely difficult to find information about products that corporations like Sysco provides. It proved that the food industry is not always honest. Our biggest questions were, why are corporations not upfront and truthful? Why do corporations feel the need to hide from their consumers, and what other information are they keeping from us?
Most importantly, getting a new food service provider at Beloit means that the food will change, but we can have a say in what happens. When thinking about next year, we urge you to consider what Beloit food means to you, and what it should stand for. These days we are very removed from the food process and as a result, it is hard to know where, when, and how the food we are eating got to the table. Real Food takes eating back to what it is supposed to be—an expression and preservation of culture and identity. Furthermore, Real Food does not just mean eating healthfully, it means thinking about culture, animals, natural resources, economics, labor, and many other ideas as a whole complex system. All of them are tied together. We hope that Bon Appétit adheres to their promises, and supports the Real Food effort. Besides, if you are what you eat, then I want to be Real, man.

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