GW becomes first D.C. university to join the Real Food Challenge

President Stephen Knapp
University President Steven Knapp announced Monday that GW would join the Real Food Challenge. Hatchet File Photo

University President Steven Knapp announced Monday that one-fifth of all food at GW’s dining halls will come from local and sustainable sources by 2020, becoming one of the largest private universities to make the commitment.

GW is the first university in D.C. to sign the Real Food Challenge, a student-led campaign across the country to improve sustainable dining options.

“It’s important that we play a leadership role like this in convening dialogue about that, that we set goals that are aspirational goals, and then over time I think this will get defined as the dialogue proceeds,” Knapp told a group of students and administrators in Kogan Plaza ahead of Earth Day on Tuesday.

But Knapp said shaping GW’s specific goals would pose challenges – and take time.

“There’s a whole question about definition here: what counts as real food, what doesn’t count as real food? I just think as a University it’s important to be a part of that dialogue,” Knapp said.

About 9.6 of GW’s dining hall is currently labeled as “real” food, Knapp said. That’s far more than the Food Justice Alliance had estimated earlier this year.

Senior Jesse Schaffer, who has helped lead advocacy by the Food Justice Alliance, said the group will work with Sodexo to find more local sources for produce and poultry.

He and other members have researched a year’s worth of GW invoices to calculate its sustainability score, he said. That research helped convince Knapp to sign on to the project, he said.

“We’ve had hundreds of student signatures, large amounts of student orgs that have supported it, and so maintaining that momentum is key,” Schaffer said. He added that the group would focus on maintaining J Street prices.

Sodexo, GW’s dining service contractor, signed on to the challenge last year.

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