Food Systems Working Group
The Food Systems Working Group (FSWG) was created when The Evergreen State College signed the Real Food Campus Commitment in 2014, as part of an agreement to participate in the Real Food Challenge. The working group is explicitly student led, by paid students as well as students with voting member standing, but also closely relies on the participation and support of faculty, staff, and the administration. FSWG decisions are made as a group and are intended to represent the campus as whole, though it is structured so that student oversight guides the group and its mission. The FSWG serves as a formal committee which can facilitate communication between the administration and the campus community regarding issues in the campus food system.
About this Committee
The FSWG hopes to realize a campus food system which is ethically informed, accountable to the needs of values of the campus community, and sustainable both ecologically and institutionally. It provides clear infrastructure by which the food system at Evergreen can be improved and creates an opportunity for students to directly participate in this process. And most importantly, it preserves the work done by students, staff, and faculty toward this goal of improvement – so that the mission may remain self-sustaining and so that long-term goals can be designated and effectively, strategically pursued.
The primary initiative of the FSWG is to ensure that campus dining procurement emphasizes products and producers which are vetted by the Real Food Calculator Assessment and its four categorical criteria. These define “real” food as either Ecologically Sound, Fair, Local &/or Community Based, and Humane. These criteria are primarily established through third-party certifications, though there are other ways to meet these standards. For more information on these categories, please see the attached file below, “Real Food Guidelines.”
The initial goal for the FSWG was to facilitate TESC achieving 28% of “Real Food” by 2028. As of October 2016, the school was already purchasing at 31%, and elevating the goal was to be considered by the FSWG for the 2016-2017 school year.
In addition to this ongoing, thorough evaluation of campus food purchasing, the FSWG is also responsible for improving the campus food system as a whole, and providing an opportunity for student leadership in these areas. Designated responsibilities of the FSWG include stewardship of the Campus Food Systems Policy, development and implementation of the Multi-Year Action Plan (MYAP), and publication of an Annual Progress Report. The FSWG also facilitates requests for product shifts and eliminations and responds to calls for food product boycotts by students (see below).
Further activities, as outlined in the policy and MYAP, will include working with the Evergreen Organic Farm, the student-run Flaming Eggplant Cafe, the bookstore, and student groups to develop greater cohesion in the food system – producing more food on campus for student consumption, reducing waste, increasing food access and literacy for students, and reducing (if not eliminating) on-campus hunger for students, staff, and faculty.
Two student workers, a committee Chair and Vice-Chair, are paid through the administrative budget for running the FSWG and implementing its decisions (5 hours/week for each student). A third student staff member is paid through Residential and Dining Services for purchasing assessments and calculations (5 hours/week). A fourth student is paid by ARAMARK as a sustainability intern (10 hours/week). Each of these students are actively involved in all FSWG operations and steer the group’s activities.
Requests for Product Shifts and Eliminations
While the student vote has been traditionally the only option for students to voice their opinion about specific products in the campus dining system – for example, when students seek to boycott an item for human rights or social justice reasons – the FSWG provides a formal process by which students can present an argument for a product shift to food providers on campus and, effectively, the institution. Votes via the GSU do not require an implementation plan for product shifts, and no formal party is designated as responsible for addressing the votes.
The FSWG seeks to change this and to designate responsible parties for research and implementation. This does require a process by which students or other parties seeking a shift must submit a researched, formal request to the FSWG and present at an FSWG meeting to our dining service contractor and other parties as affected. The group will conduct their own research and make a recommendation that either the school transition to an alternative project, or pursue further research, such as feasibility studies for more intrinsic products.
The process and application are included below, “Request for Product Shifts – Procedures and Forms.”