Turnip the Beet: the real food revolution is winning at Northeastern University

The below post—written by a member of the Real Food Challenge team about their recent victory at Northeastern University—is the first in what will be a series of guest posts from our allies in the food movement.  As we continue our work to ensure real jobs for those individuals whose hands harvest, prepare and serve our food, we also recognize that we are part of an ever-stronger movement of those fighting for good, fair and real food from school cafeterias to airport terminals to the fields.

21347_167496066725084_575566559_nAfter a hard-fought campaign, Northeastern University recently signed the Real Food Campus Commitment, agreeing to shift 20% of its dining budget to food that is local, fair, ecologically sound, and humane.  Additionally, it will provide a transparent, student-run analysis of its current food sources – a rarity in the private dining business.

The Real Food Campus Commitment is a program devised by the Real Food Challenge, a nationwide, grassroots student organization aimed at shifting $1 billion of university purchasing power by 2020 towards a fairer, healthier food economy.  By empowering students to take on some of the largest food service corporations in the world like Sodexo, Aramark, and Compass Group, it sends a powerful signal of reclaiming food sovereignty. 

With over 20,000 students, Northeastern is the largest private school to sign the Commitment, as well as the first school in Boston.  And it certainly won’t be the last – with budding Real Food campaigns at Boston University, Tufts, and Brandeis, the Northeastern win will only serve to galvanize the students at neighboring schools.  “We’ve been meeting with students from all these other Boston schools, building a city-wide movement, and they are peeing themselves from excitement at the victory right now” says Steffi Klosterman, a rising third year student at Northeastern.  This fall, Northeastern students will be able to enroll in an accredited course analyzing dining hall purchases and researching better alternatives.

562641_227807344027289_1394861778_nThis tremendous accomplishment could not have happened without the tireless work of students like Catherine Aust, Sonia Banaszczyk, Emma Clouse, Tricia Kiefer, Steffi Klosterman, Brooke Sheehan and Allie Smith, who formed a “warrior goddess dream team” for food justice.  Often meeting up multiple times a week, sometimes late at night, they circulated petitions, built a coalition of 27 student groups, hosted Food Day 2012, and worked closely with school administrators who initially showed resistance.

Additionally, it comes on the heels of last year’s vote by Northeastern Chartwells workers to join UNITE HERE! Local 26, a campaign several of these students – whom view sustainability and fair labor as inseparable – worked on as well.  The dining staff today enjoys expanded full-time jobs and a fair pay raise, and now, with the Campus Commitment signed, will get the chance to acquire valuable skills cooking fresh, whole foods.  Combined, these two exciting wins are beginning to make Real Food Real Jobs a reality on campus.

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