Farm to University Dining Staff: Tracking Purchases of and Learning about Real Food
Name and Title: Sue DeBlieck, Farm to ISU Coordinator
Organization: Iowa State University Phone: 515‐294‐2892
Address: 0145 Friley Hall Fax: 515‐294‐4016
City, State, Zip: Ames, IA 50012 E‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Name and Title: Erin Gaines, Sustainable Foods Coordinator
Organization: Stanford University Phone: 805‐680‐4204
Address: 693 Pampas Lane
City, State, Zip: Stanford, CA 94305 E‐mail: email@example.com
Title: Farm to University Dining Staff: Tracking Purchases of and Learning about Real Food
Real food purchasing programs are gaining from engaging staff in the process of tracking and
learning about real food. At Stanford University, staff have been involved in using the Real Food
Calculator to track the purchases of real foods. Meanwhile across the country at Iowa State
University, dining staff are becoming more aware of the importance of real food.
As real food purchasing programs are moved forward by institutions and students, dining staff
need to be involved if they are to change the type of work that they are doing. It is important to
educate staff about the importance of real foods and also to standardize real food so that it can
be measured in an institutional setting.
Two years ago Iowa State University’s dining services turned a new page by creating a program
to increase its purchases of local, sustainable, and organic food to 35 percent ($2.1 million) by
2012. When the Farm to ISU program began, it had great support from the ISU Dining Director,
farmer organizations, and sustainable agriculture researchers, but it had little backing from the
ISU Dining staff. In August 2008 the level of interest and understanding in regards to the
program were analyzed through a survey of ISU Dining staff. Based on the results of the
evaluations, a program of learning activities was developed. The staff were surveyed for a
second time in January 2009 to evaluate how the program changed their perceptions of Farm to
The Real Food Challenge, a national student‐led campaign for a just and sustainable food
system, has a goal to redirect 20 percent of food purchased by colleges and universities
(currently 4 billion dollars) towards real food by 2020. But how do we define and standardize
real food in an institutional setting? The Real Food Calculator is the tool we have developed to
define “real food”. It includes four categories to evaluate a food item, each with detailed
metrics: Local & Community Based, Fair, Ecologically Sound and Humane. In this interactive
session, we will explain the history and development of the Calculator, where and how it is
currently being used, and solicit feedback on its content and further implementation.
Participants will benefit from this session by: 1) learning about ways that dining staff can be
involved in farm to cafeteria programs, 2) reflect on how this involvement has impacted dining
staff and the implications for farm to cafeteria programs, and 3) find out about the Real Food
Calculator and discuss the implications of standardizing real food
Audio‐visual needs: projector & laptop
Skill level: intermediate.
Sue DeBlieck has been the coordinator of the local food purchasing program at Iowa State
University, Farm to ISU, since it began in March 2007. DeBlieck has her BS in Community and
Regional Planning from ISU and is currently finishing a Masters degree in Sustainable Agriculture
there. She is the Midwest Organizer for the Real Food Challenge.
Erin Gaines graduated in June 2007 from Stanford with a B.S. in Earth Systems. She now works
as the Sustainable Foods Coordinator with Stanford Dining, a position she helped create while
an undergrad at Stanford. Erin is currently working with the Real Food Challenge to develop the
Real Food Calculator, which will define and standardize the meaning of “real” and “sustainable”
food for institutions.