The Orion

University food services expands sustainable options

Eric Mcguire

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Chico State's dining hall, Sutter Residential Dining Center, has taken steps to meet the criteria outlined in the Real Food Challenge. Photo courtesy of Chico State.

Chico State’s food service providers have been taking the lead in working toward sustainable goals that have been set by the state of California.

A new food policy was approved by the California State University Board of Trustees and Gov. Jerry Brown last year. Under the new guidelines, each campus will have until 2020 to ensure that at least 20 percent of all food spending goes to farms and businesses that meet sustainability criteria laid out by a student group known as the Real Food Challenge.

As of now, food services mark puts its progress toward this criteria at 8 percent.

“I would not be surprised if we come in closer to 12 percent” said Corinne Knapp, retail manager of Associated Students Dining Services.

During the past few years, food distributors have been pressured by many of their clients, including the CSU system, to clearly indicate where their food comes from on the label.

Since not every distributor provides the information, Chico has instead enlisted the help of self-described “food detective” Grace Kerfoot to find out where the food comes from.

“I look through all of the food products that come onto our campus, and I research them to see if they have a qualification in the categories,” Kerfoot said.

These categories include being local, using fair trade and being humane.

Kerfoot uses an online calculator to research the origin of food on campus. Then she gets in touch with distributors and find out which ones meet the Real Food Challenge’s criteria.

However, Chico State has been unable to impress the importance of this issue on the student body.

So far, food services has implemented the Green Leaf program to promote its sustainability practices. It encourages diners to look for the green leaves, which indicate that one or more of the criteria were met.

However, a quick survey revealed that most students are unaware of the changes being made to their dining choices and vaguely aware of food services’ achievements in the arena of sustainability.

One thing that might affect student opinions on this issue is the higher cost of food that meets the new criteria, said George Rankin, director of A.S. Dining Services. Compostable paper plates were also more expensive at one time, but now they are the norm in food services across CSU campuses, and prices have come down.

“It’s simple economics — supply and demand,” Rankin said. “As they (students) buy more and more organic products, they drive the price down, and we can bring more of that product in.”

Eric McGuire can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.

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University food services expands sustainable options