Students petition Aramark for healthier campus food

FOOD CRITICS: Volunteer Nicole Maria helped with the Real Food Challenge on the Tempe campus Tuesday. The group is petitioning campus food providers to offer healthier and more diverse food choices. (Photo by Lisa Bartoli)

Students tend to eat anything that is cheap, fast and convenient.

Sacrificed are the healthy options and home-cooked meals, leaving most busy students with unhealthy fast-food choices.

The ASU chapter of the Real Food Challenge showed there were more possibilities for collegiate dining Tuesday, encouraging students to try healthier options at the group’s first ever Food Day.

The Challenge is a nationwide movement to shift 20 percent of university spending on food to local producers by 2020. The Challenge currently has 358 chapters at schools around the country.

Sustainability senior Natalie Fleming said the group’s objective is to secure more “real food” choices at ASU.

“(Our mission) is to transition our food service provider from more of the processed junk food into local, organic and fair-trade food,” Fleming said.

The group set up an information table on the Tempe campus Tuesday at ASU’s farmers market, hosted every two weeks through Nov. 22. There, the group obtained about 300 student signatures on a petition to bring more local and organic food choices to the University.

Fleming said its goal is to get about 1,000 signatures. The Challenge plans to bring the signatures to Aramark — ASU’s food services supplier — to show students’ interest in expanded healthy options. The idea is to collaborate with Aramark, not criticize the organization, Fleming said.

“Food is something everyone has in common,” Fleming said. “We aren’t some kind of special interest. Everyone has to eat food and everyone cares a little bit about being healthy.”

Sustainability sophomore Molly Bajgot said the Challenge is looking to gauge student opinion and then “incorporate our vision of a more sustainable food system at ASU around that.”

Bajgot said the most common requests from students were for more vegetable varieties in dining halls and more low cost organic options.

Engrained, the Memorial Union’s third-floor restaurant, serves all-organic meals, priced between $7 and $10.

Communications junior Cassandra Peña said she attended the farmers market after hearing arguments in her public speaking class about buying local, organic food.

Peña said she bought guacamole, bread, cookies, pasta, vegetables, fruits and coffee from the market to support local farmers rather than going to a grocery store.

“Here it goes directly back to them,” Peña said. “Everything is fresh, everything is organic and to support local farmers in Arizona is really important, especially with the economy.”

Fleming said the Challenge is meant to promote healthier options, but is also a way for people to come together through food conversation.

“A lot of it is just community,” Fleming said. “There’s nothing like just having people over to my house, cooking food together and enjoying a nice meal to let life slow down a bit.”


Reach the reporter at brennan.j,

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