Real Food at NU hosts rally to raise awareness, garner support


Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

Students listen to music on Norris University Center’s South Lawn on Saturday night during the Rally for Real Food at NU. The rally was co-hosted by Real Food at NU and Wildroots.

Peter Kotecki, Reporter

Real Food at NU hosted a rally Saturday afternoon at Norris University Center to raise awareness about its efforts to ensure 20 percent of dining hall food meets the “real food” criteria by 2020.

The group classifies “real food” as any item that is “humane, local and ecologically-sound.”

Real Food at NU wants University President Morton Schapiro to sign a pledge for Northwestern to purchase at least 20 percent of its food from what the national organization Real Food Challenge considers ecologically sound, local, humane or fairly sourced by 2020.

The group will meet with him June 3 to discuss its goal, said the group’s co-director Kara Rodby, a McCormick sophomore. She said the past few months have involved a lot of research regarding “real food” and meetings with other schools to prepare the best possible argument in the upcoming meeting with Schapiro.

The rally included live musical performances and opportunities to work in the Wild Roots garden. Attendees could also drink tea made from plants grown in the garden.

The rally, which was co-sponsored by NU Wild Roots and supported by the Center for Student Involvement, featured performances by artists such as singer Sophie Rae and all-female band Cabrona for a crowd of about 80 people.

Real Food at NU co-director Miranda Cawley said the group is almost done running the real food calculator, which is a Web-based platform the Real Food Challenge has created to standardize the calculation of “real food” percentages in American institutions.

“Right now, we are hovering at about 6 percent real food, which is about what we had expected,” the Medill junior said.

Rodby said although the jump from 6 percent to the proposed 20 percent seems like a long way to go, a few simple product changes in the right places could make it happen fairly easily.

“That’s what we believe, and that’s based on our research and our communication with other schools who have done this,” Rodby said. “We think that it’s a very reasonable goal.”

Weinberg freshman Yamari Lewis said she came to the rally because she is interested in community engagement and Wild Roots.

“I come from a place where holistic health and real food and local sustainability is really an issue,” Lewis said. “I think the main reason a lot of people are here is because we believe in knowing what we eat, and especially since it’s the season for real food, you can get into it more.”

SESP junior Renee Wellman, co-president of Wild Roots, said she is involved with Real Food at NU through her work as the group’s finance chair. This is the first time the two groups have actively planned an event together, she said.

“Both groups have very, very similar goals, and we have a great, wonderful space that isn’t used enough, so we thought it would be a great idea to combine efforts of both groups,” Wellman said.

Rodby said the rally is both a way of showing the NU administration there is significant student support behind the group and a celebration of their efforts this year.

“Whether or not it gets signed, we have given it our all up until this point, and we aren’t going to give up if it doesn’t get signed,” she said.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated how tea was distributed at the event. The tea was free. The Daily regrets the error.

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