Real Food Challenge

In October 2014, Occidental became the 27th national signatory to the Real Food Challenge Campus Commitment, with a goal of purchasing 30% sustainable food by the year 2020. 

In the 2018-2019 academic year, Oxy's Own Dining Service purchased 29% Real Food!!! That's a 3% increase from last year. See below for more stats on our Real Food purchasing. 

Oxy’s Own Sustainable Food Goals (by 2020):

  • 30% overall Real Food

  • 20% humane animal products

  • 50% ecologically sound seafood - GOAL MET 2016!!

  • 50% local/ecologically sound produce

  • Reduce dependence on plastic water bottles and decrease usage to under 50,000 bottles per year (currently at approximately 65,000/year, but we saw a decrease of around 30,000 plastic bottles in the 2017-2018 fiscal year)

  • Purchase all coffee and chocolate from organic and/or fair trade certified sources.

Visit our Suppliers page to learn more about how we source our food.

How can you make a difference? Look for signage in the dining facilities, and choose the products that are labeled "Sustainably Sourced!"  We want you to understand the power of voting for sustainable food with your dining purchases. You can do this by choosing items tagged with our "Sustainable Sourced" logo, and by supporting these weekly sustainable meals:

  • Monday and Friday SLO (Sustainable Local Organic) Lunches
  • Meatless Monday Dinners at Chefs Corner
  • Wednesday Night Organic Potato Bar
  • Thursday Night Organic Bar
  • Saturday Brunch Sustainable Smoothie Bar 

Prioritize our sustainable target categories - look for signs in all dining facilities

  • ​Seafood Watch and Marine Stewardship Council approved seafood
     
  • Humane and Free Range Poultry
     
  • Cage Free Eggs
     
  • Local and Organic Produce
    • The Marketplace features sustainably grown whole fruit
    • Many local and organic items for the salad bar

Contribute to the annual update of the Food Resource Guide - a publication of the Food Systems Working Group. Please contact Talia White (twhite2@oxy.edu) if you have questions about the Guide or would like to contribute.

Purchasing we're proud of (2018-2019): 

  • 29% Overall Real* Food - This year's percentage is 3% higher than the 2016-2017 academic year! 

  • 41%  Real Produce - An 6% increase!

    • Much of our produce is sourced from local, family-owned farms through our suppliers Harvest Santa Barbara and LA Specialty

    • We also buy entirely organic produce for many meals, including the weekly Local and Organic Bar, and Organic Potato Bar 

    • We feature local and organic spring mix from Kenter Canyon on our salad bar, and the cherry tomatoes, tofu, and carrots are always certified organic

    • Our whole fruit is sustainably sourced, local and/or organic

  • 77% Real Coffee and Tea - A 12% increase!

    • At the Marketplace, we feature organic locally roasted options from Groundwork Coffee, owned and operated by an Oxy alumnus, and Rishi fair trade/organice teas 

    • The Green Bean also predominantly features organic and fair trade coffee

    • Bottled/canned coffee in all facilities is sustainably sourced according to Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, or Organic standards.

  • 67% Real Seafood - (GOAL MET 2016-2017 academic year)

    • This is primarily attributable to the wildly popular salmon in the Marketplace, obtained from Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch approved sources

  • 83% Real Eggs - A 24% increase from last academic year!

    • Oxy now sources all shell and liquid eggs from Wilcox Farms

  • 10% Real Meat - a 7% increase!

    • Although there aren't many humane meat suppliers that have enough volume at low enough costs for our dining facilities, this percentage increase reflects the probable upward trend in our meat sustainable procurement!

    • The Better Burgers Sunday nights at the Grill featured local, grass-fed beef from Parkfield, CA.

  • 12% Real Dairy - an 8% increase!

    • It is quite challenging to find local and organic dairy sources that do not use CAFOs or GMOs, so although some might consider the local dairy we use as sustainable, it is not Real Food Compliant. 

*The Real Food Challenge defines 'Real Food' as:

  • Local and Community Based: Grown/produced within 250 miles of Oxy and comes from a small business. Items made locally must also contain 51% organic ingredients to qualify.

  • Ecologically Sound: Organic, responsibly managed (fisheries), or certified by a legitimate third party environmental certification program. 

  • Humane: Cage free, free range, grass fed, or certified by a legitimate third party animal welfare/humane certification program.

  • Fair Trade: Certified Fair by a legitimate fair certification program (fair wages, working conditions, etc.).

*For a more detailed description of their Guidelines, please refer to the latest version of the Real Food Guide.

RFC Background:

“The Real Food Challenge (RFC) leverages the power of youth and universities to create a healthy, fair and green food system. Colleges and universities spend almost $5 billion each year on food. Because of concentration in the industry, even small changes in institutional food procurement can have powerful effects on farmers and the entire food chain.

Our primary campaign is to shift $1 billion of existing university food budgets (20%) away from industrial farms and junk food and towards local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound and humane food sources—what we call “real food"—by 2020."

– Real Food Challenge

History of the RFC at Oxy

Oxy’s Own Dining Services has been participating in the Real Food Challenge since 2008. During the following years we made strong improvements in our procurement and tracking protocols, averaging a 5.25% increase in Real Food each fiscal year, culminating at 25% in the 2012-2013 year. However, in preparation for a push to sign the RFC’s campus commitment, we implemented their new, more stringent guidelines in 2013-2014. These new guidelines caused our calculated Real Food percentage to drop to 15% - which is what we expected with the new metrics. With 12% Real Food in 2014-2015, that year's assessment saw another small drop as we lost a few major Real Food producers. In the 2015-2016 academic year we came back strong, focusing on new procurement initiatives and doubled the prior year's Real Food procurement. At the start of the 2016-2017, the Real Food Challenge came out with their newest set of guidelines, which again caused a percentage drop to 19%. Beginning the 2017-2018 academic year with that percentage, Oxy planned to regain the ground lost in the past academic year because of the guideine shift. We made a huge comeback that year, and ended with 26% REAL FOOD!! We are so proud and excited about this growth.

With a more solid percentage, we bagan to work on specific goals, including more Real meat and dairy. In the 2018-2019 academic year, we increased our Real Food percentage to 29%, and saw tons of growth in the aforementioned subcategories. Oxy's Own Dining Service now offers 10% Real Meat and 14% Real Dairy, as well as 83% Real Eggs, and 43% Real Produce. These numbers reflect hard work to track down suppliers with goals that align with our own, and we are proud to offer their products as part of our mission to run a more sustainable dining service.

Stay tuned in the next few years as Campus Dining shifts towards new sustainability standards. If you want to be a part of this process, attend our Food Systems Working Group meetings, held twice a semester, and get in touch with our Lead Intern for Sustainability, Kaye Jenkins, at jenkinsk@oxy.edu.