The Real Food Challenge GMU

Participant Julie Ross


The issue of focus is food in the dining halls and the lack of transparency surrounding it. Students literally don’t know what is in their food or where it is coming from. In order to have a safer and healthier food environment on campus, there needs to be more information to empower the students to make informed choices about what they eat. To address this issue, I will create a piece that will demonstrate all of the different brands that you will find in Southside dining. This food is passed off as “homemade”, but it really follows a quite conventional model. I want to create a graphic design that captures these different brands and have it small enough so that people can take them and start making connections about what they are being fed.



This project has transitioned into an effort to educate and engage the Mason community about the Real Food Challenge in order to establish a base of passionate people who can carry it on in future semesters. The Real Food Challenge is a nationwide movement to get universities to commit to 20% real food by 2020. “Real” in real food is used as a way to challenge the state of our food system which is driven by short term profit thinking.

Thus far, I have been working with a couple of other students to research, plan events, and build a coalition of students. Our big “launch” event will be on April 6th sponsored by a student sustainability group called Green Patriots. We aim to start our petition there and build our solid base of students. This will precede Sustainable Food Day which will be a bigger event to engage an even broader spectrum of people. In the meantime, we have smaller events going on in partnership with other organizations and are working towards fostering more partnerships for a more dynamic and representative campaign.

The workshop was quite a success. About 30 people attended. We had lively discussion and breakout groups resulting in enthusiasm for the initiative and people eager to get involved. Unfortunately, our multiple camera people did not end up with clear photos. They were all washed out even after some “lighting adjustments”. Since the workshop, we have had a follow up meeting, two outreach events and have gotten over 280 signatures for The Real Food Letter of Support. This letter endorses our research and GMU’s move towards at least 20% real food by 2020.

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