Hall at the Univeristy of Denver

University Hall at the University of Denver in Denver.

The University of Denver reports that six years after committing to obtain 20% of its campus food from local, ecologically-sound sources by 2020, it has met its goal.

“Early on we had students calling a lot of the places we were getting our food from to better understand where it was coming from. The first couple of percentage points were just getting better at tracking,” Chad King, the university’s sustainability director, told the DU news service. “For the first couple years, the students did all the audits. That was going through stacks of paper two feet high for each month that we audited and going through manually and entering data.”

DU joined the Real Food Challenge in 2014, which defines “real food” as that which meets at least one of four criteria: is local; produced under fairly-compensated and safe working conditions; stems from sound environmental practices; or treats animals humanely with limited use of drugs.

A 2015 assessment found only 1% of the university’s food met more than one criterion, with an additional 11% qualifying as “real food” under just one of the benchmarks. DU said its food vendor, Sodexo, now works with vendors to identify food orders that comply with the challenge, while also working within budgetary constraints.

The challenge, founded in 2007, aims to shift $1 billion of institutional spending away from industrial farms, and has claimed an $80 million impact to date. Of other Colorado institutions assessed, Colorado College had a total of 12% “real food” in 2016, Fort Lewis College had 10% in 2018 and Colorado Mountain College had 1% in 2013.

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