HWS Students Lead Real Food Challenge – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

HWS Students Lead Real Food Challenge

With the efforts of dedicated student interns, the HWS chapter of the Real Food Challenge (RFC) has made further progress in developing sustainable food practices. Working in conjunction with the Finger Lakes Institute and campus food provider Sodexo, Maggie O’Reilly ’16, Eric Bushnell ’16 and Alyssa Kelly ’19 have helped lead the charge in instituting campus-wide improvements.

Their goal is to increase the percentage of “real” food consumed to 20 percent at HWS by the year 2020. “Real” food, as defined by the RFC, is local or community based, fair, ecologically sound and/or humane. Achieving the local sourcing goal will also further reduce the Colleges’ overall carbon footprint and support the Finger Lakes region’s economy.

To meet these goals, O’Reilly and Kelly advanced the work begun by former RFC members Stacey Davis ’15 and Mekala Bertocci ’14. Using September 2013 and February 2014 data, Davis and Bertocci initially determined a 9 percent “real food” baseline at the Colleges. Using September 2015 and February 2016 data, O’Reilly and Kelly calculated that the “real food” currently sourced by HWS has increased to 12 percent. O’Reilly, who also launched a pilot project in 2016 to recover surplus food from Saga Dining Hall that can be donated to the community, used statistics provided by HWS and Sodexo to lay a strong foundation for increasing “real” food sourcing.

An analysis of September 2016 and February 2017 is expected to be completed this coming school year by HWS students to assess continued changes in purchasing practices by Sodexo.

Bushnell, an RFC food policy intern at HWS, researched sustainable food policies adopted by colleges and universities across the country to determine how best to foster more sustainable purchasing at HWS. Through collaborations with President Mark D. Gearan, General Manager of Dining Services Lynn Pelkey and an advisory review committee, Bushnell compiled an overview of the status of food purchasing at HWS and developed a draft for a sustainable policy in the future.

Having developed a survey confirming that HWS students largely agree with the RFC’s goals and proposals, Kelly helped increase the percentage of “real” food intake at HWS by 3 percent during the 2015-16 academic year by ensuring the Colleges source eggs from cage-free hens and serve “real” tea and coffee products.

A member of the Sustainable Foods Club, O’Reilly graduated cum laude with a double major in environmental studies and religious studies.

Bushnell graduated summa cum laude in French & Francophone studies and European studies and minored in environmental studies. He worked in many capacities while on campus, including as a teaching fellow and a research assistant.  

Kelly plans to declare a major in environmental studies, and is considering a minor in education. As the fall semester approaches, she will represent the RFC during this year’s HWS Involvement Expo. The RFC table at the event will offer further information about the group, how to join and the future of “real” food at the HWS.

In the photo above, Alyssa Kelly ’19 and Eric Bushnell ’16 pose during an RFC poster presentation.