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Real Food Challenge

In 2015, University of Utah President David Pershing signed the Real Food Campus Commitment, making the U part of a national campaign for food justice and committing our Dining Services to buying at least 20 percent “real food” by the year 2020.

Changing Campus Food 

The Real Food Challenge is a national movement dedicated to inspiring universities to purchase more just and sustainable foods. Nationally, university dining purchases amount to $5 billion per year. The Real Food Challenge’s goal is to shift $1 billion of that amount toward foods that truly nourish communities, consumers, producers, and the Earth.

“Real food” is defined as the following:

  • Community-based: Food must come from locally owned and operated farms or businesses and travel fewer than 250 miles to get to campus.
  • Ecologically sound: All operations involved with food production must practice environmental stewardship that conserves biodiversity and preserves natural resources.
  • Humane: Animals have been allowed to express natural behaviors in a low-stress environment and have been raised with no added hormones or unnecessary medications. All concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are automatically disqualified.
  • Fair: Individuals involved in all aspects of the food production process must be provided with safe and fair working conditions as well as receive a ‘living wage’, be ensured the rights to organize and to grievance processes, and have equal employment opportunity

Real Food at the U

The Real Food Challenge student group works with University Dining Services and administration to build relationships with local producers and shift our institution’s food purchases toward more real food. To be considered real, products need to meet one or more of the Real Food Standards. Additionally, the university audits food purchases every other year using the Real Food Calculator.  Members of the Real Food Challenge also conduct research regarding foodways at the university. To get involved, email

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