On March 6, Mason’s student senate passed the Real Food resolution, a bill that attempts to change the current food source for all of Mason’s dining. If passed through the administration, this bill will transition the majority of Mason Dining’s food consumption from outside state sources to local cities.
According to Senate Speaker, Phil Abbruscato, Real Food would be working with Mason’s current food provider, Sodexo.
Real Food is an organization that attempts “to create a healthy, fair, and green food system,” according to their website.
In addition, the website also states that the organization aims “to shift $1 billion of existing university food budgets away from industrial farms…towards local/community-based… food sources.”
The organization was created 20 years ago out of the non-profit organization, The Food Project Inc., located in Boston, Massachusetts. They visit various colleges across the nation attempting to change the food sources for the universities.
Raquel Friedmann, student government’s Undersecretary of Sustainability, defined the bill as an attempt to create equality within farm production.
“[The bill] will pass organic foods that don’t hurt the environment,” Friedmann said. She also stated that local foods are better for students since they lack preservatives.
Friedmann believes that the likelihood of the bill passing through the administration is high.
“The bill will pass if it can be shown to benefit students,” Friedmann said.
Representatives from Real Food came to a student senate meeting in February to present their overall mission and goal for the university. After their visit, the senators began to discuss the possibility of allowing the Real Food resolution to pass through the senate.
However, there was disagreement in the student senate concerning the effectiveness of the bill. Although the majority of the senate voted for the passing of the bill, there were some who voiced concerns.
“I believe the Real Food Initiative neglects a lot of financial information that our school needs in order to make a decision,” said Thomas Raddatz, senator on the government and academic affairs committee for Mason. He believes that as an educational institution, we should not be supporting such issues as Real Food.
“The Real Food initiative is also too politically broad for George Mason to be supporting,” Raddatz said.
The Mason administration does not intend to raise the current prices of Mason dining through the passing of Real Food, however Radditz believes using the new food source will cost the university more money.
“In my logical opinion, I believe buying from family owned farms is going to be fairly more expensive than buying from the corporate owned farms that we currently buy from,” Raddatz said. “No one has presented any data or has knowledge of data supporting that it will be cheaper.”
Speaker pro-tempore Evan Del Duke also voted against the bill, but declined to comment on his decision.
Stacy Flemming, student government’s Chairwoman of University Services, supports Real Food’s vision for universities across the country.
“It’s very important to allow young adults to build healthy lifestyles from an early age,” Flemming said. She also mentioned that when fruit is shipped across the country, the preservatives could hurt the nutritional value.
On the first Wednesday of every month, student government holds an event called, “What do you want Wednesday,” where students voice their desires for change on Mason campus. According to Flemming, one of the biggest complaints from students has to do with the lack of healthy food options.
“With the Real Food Challenge, George Mason could potentially have 20% local food by 2020,” Flemming said. “All of the administrators I’ve spoken with on the issue are also fully on board and Dining is already beginning to implement this change.”