Press Release: Good Food Challenge

Good Food Challenge
Good Food Challenge launches calling on Canadian campuses to serve healthy, sustainable and ethical food

TORONTO – Meal Exchange, a national charity working to increase food security and sustainability on postsecondary campuses across Canada, announced today the launch of the Good Food Challenge, a program which advocates for institutions to increase the amount of healthy, sustainable and ethical food available on campus. Meal Exchange officially launched the campaign at the National Student Food Summit, an annual gathering student leaders engaged in food systems from campuses across the country.

Over the past three years the Good Food Challenge, led by student researchers, has worked with more than 200 civil society leaders, academics, and campus administrators to create a comprehensive set of national standards which represent best practices for measuring whether food on campus is good for consumers, producers, and the planet. The Good Food Challenge employs the Good Food Calculator to track food purchasing and categorizes those purchases based on four sustainability standards. It also calls on campus administration to sign the Good Food Campus Commitment, promising to make 20%,of campus food, as measured by the calculator, meet Good Food standards by the year 2025.

The campaign has already marked its first success; St. Jerome’s University, part of the University of Waterloo, signed the Good Food Campus Commitment in April, becoming the first Canadian campus to formally join onto the program. Organizers hope to build on this momentum on other Canadian campuses.

“What we’re calling for is not complicated and is not unreasonable” says Eliana Hotz, one of the student leaders of the Good Food Challenge at the University of Manitoba. “We believe that our food should be good for us. It should be good for the people that produce it. It should be good for communities and for the planet. By signing the Good Food Campus Commitment, SJU has shown that they believe this. Other schools can and should follow their example and show that they believe this too.”

Colleges and universities are often amongst the largest bulk-food purchasers in the communities where they are located, giving them significant purchasing power and thereby a greater impact on local economies and food systems. Historically, institutions have not prioritized healthy, sustainable and ethical food, but rather differ to low cost options to feed thousands of students. As student food insecurity and sustainability comes into focus as major issues on campus, many colleges and universities are left scrambling to improve the food options they offer.

”Good Food is becoming a priority for students and campus administrators, so it’s important to define exactly what that means,” says Anita Abraham, Meal Exchange’s Executive Director. “These standards are groundbreaking because, for the first time, they create a single, decisive, and comprehensive standard for Good Food on Canadian campuses.”

The Good Food Challenge was inspired by the U.S based Real Food Challenge; the two campaigns are partnering to shift $1 billion worth of campus food purchases across Canada and the United States. Since launching in 2008, the American campaign has successfully seen 83 campuses sign formal commitments, nearly $400 million worth of campus food purchasing has already been audited using the Real Food Standards.

Just the Facts:

  • During the development of the Good Food Challenge the program was piloted on nine campuses, including the University of Ottawa, University of British Columbia, University of Victoria, Langara College, Simon Fraser University, and St. Jerome’s University.

  • Only one in four students felt that food on campus helped them maintain a healthy diet, and four out of five students felt that more locally grown food would increase the amount of healthy food options on campus (Maynard M., Lahey D., Abraham A., Campus Food Report Card, 2018).

  • Nearly two in five post-secondary students surveyed on Canadian campuses experienced moderate or severe food insecurity (Silverthorne D., Hungry for Knowledge, 2016)

  • The Good Food Standards are compatible with other best practice sustainability assessment programs already in widespread use on campuses, including Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). Campuses that participate in GFC can therefore get credit for AASHE STARS.

About Meal Exchange:

Meal Exchange is national registered charity that works to elevate the voices and leadership of students across Canada to increase food security and sustainability on postsecondary campuses. Meal Exchange’s Good Food Challenge has been supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Greenbelt Foundation, Winnipeg Foundation, Vancity Foundation, Vancouver Foundation, Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia, and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.

Meal Exchange has also partnered with Farm to Cafeteria Canada on F2CC’s Farm to School: Canada Digs In Initiative to bring a farm-to-campus approach to GFC. F2CC works closely with Meal Exchange to spearhead Farm to School efforts across Canada.

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