About the Real Food Calculator

Mission | AboutSuccess & Impact | CompatibilityOur Team


The Real Food Calculator is a tool for tracking institutional purchasing over time. College and University students use the Real Food Calculator as a platform for discussion and action with dining services and administrators. The Calculator plays a crucial role in helping schools increase their real food purchasing. 


"Real food" encompasses a concern for producers, consumers, communities, and the earth. "Real food" represents a common ground where all relevant issues from human rights to environmental sustainability can converge.

Amidst a sea of confusing labels, certifications, and claims about sustainability and ethical purchasing, The Real Food Calculator offers a comprehensive and decisive definition for ‘real food’; sets a high standard upheld consistently among institutions; and supports users in setting quantitative goals and tracking their progress. 

“Increasingly we're finding businesses that understand millennials' desire for transparency, authenticity and honesty in marketing—especially when it comes to food. What's missing are concrete tools and hard numbers to help institutions keep up with an evolving customer base. The Real Food Calculator fills that gap.” - Anim Steel, Real Food Generation

“Transparency and sustainability go hand-in-hand. Increasing transparency is something we want to model for this generation of interested consumers and for our industry. Working with the Real Food Challenge is great way to do just that”  - Sodexo USA

“This has been an incredible learning experience for students and dining, alike. Using the Calculator, I can now tell you that 81% of my school’s seafood is ecologically sound. And we now know that, compared to other universities, we could source more fairly trade items, such as rice—the item we buy the most of. Such a switch could have an exciting economic impact and serve as a campus wide educational tool.” - Anna Hankins, Class of 2017, UMASS- Amherst.

Success & Impact

To date, over 1000 student researchers have researched over 570,000 unique food products, amounting to over $330,000,000.00 in campus dining purchases. Over 200 institutions of higher education are currently signed up to participate.

Product Shifts

Hundreds of students at diverse institutions have used the Calculator to learn about their campus food system, identify progress in sustainable purchasing, and find opportunities for improvement.
  • Students at Carleton College led a transition from conventional bananas to fairly traded, organic bananas, a marked investment in the health and well-being of communities abroad.
  • The University of Vermont, an early adopter of the Real Food Campus Commitment, has made many impressive product shifts. After an initial trial purchase, UVM is now regularly sourcing high quality beef from a local vendor. The campus has also replaced all vegan burgers and most vegan cookies with products from a local, organic, and gluten free producer. 
  • The University of New Hampshire, in partnership with the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, is currently testing a new purchasing relationship with a consortium of small fisherfolk to increase both local and ecologically sound seafood procurement.


Campus Sustainability Reporting

The Real Food Challenge has long partnered with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS).  AASHE  and RFC staff have reciprocally advised the development of the Real Food Calculator and  STARS criteria. Colleges and universities which employ STARS 2.0 as means to track their institution’s progress in sustainability may use Real Food Calculator results to ascertain their STARS points in the food category.


RFC's effort to leverage the buying power of universities is complemented by the excellent work peer organizations in other sectors, in particular The Center for Good Food Purchasing (focused on municipalities), Health Care Without Harm (focused on hospitals), and School Food Focus (focused on K-12 schools). To the degree possible, our Real Food Standards are aligned with the standards of these peers. While there are differences derived from unique aspects of our respective sectors, the fundamental priorities and most of the criteria are shared, and food products qualified under our standard will more likely than not be qualified under the other standards. Please contact us if you would like to know more about about the commonalities and differences between these standards.

Corporate Transparency

Bon Appétit Management Company and Sodexo USA — which together manage cafeterias at over 700 colleges and universities and hundreds of other sites, nation-wide — have emerged as leaders in their field, offering heightened corporate transparency in food purchasing. These corporate commitments markedly advance supply chain transparency and accountability on campus and beyond. 

Our Team

Real Food Standards Council

The Real Food Standards Council led the process of revising the Real Food Standards from 2015-2016. Members: 
  • Abbie Abramovich, Western Washington University
  • Lori Boegershausen, Florida Gulf Coast University
  • Emma Brewster, Real Food Challenge 
  • Alana Chriest, University of Alaska-Fairbanks, University of Vermont
  • Keo Corak, Macalester College, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Zach Fleig, The Evergreen State College
  • Anna Hankins, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
  • Claire Hannapel, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  • Evelina Knodel, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
  • Fiona Mattson, University of California-Davis
  • Abby McIntosh, Indiana University-Bloomington
  • Hannah Weinronk, Real Food Challenge
View a list of past members


Advisors offered expertise and feedback to the Real Food Standards Council for improving the Real Food Standards.
  • Hillary Bisnett — National Procurement Director, Health Care Without Harm
  • Alexa Delwiche — Executive Director, The Center For Good Food Purchasing
  • Rosalinda Guillen — Executive Director, Community to Community Development
  • Kari Hamerschlag — Deputy Director of the Food and Technology Program, Friends of the Earth
  • Denis Hayes — Chair, Earth Day Network
  • Angela Huffman — Communications & Special Projects Manager, White Oak Pastures
  • Colleen McKinney — Associate Director, Center for Good Food Purchasing
  • Lucy Norris — Director of Regional Food Systems, Ag innovations (formerly)
  • Chris Pelton — STARS Program Manager, Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)
  • Joann Lo — Co-Director, Food Chain workers Alliance
  • Urvashi Rangan — Executive Director, Food Safety and Sustainability Center, Consumer Reports (formerly)
  • Alison Streacker — Fairtrade America and CLAC - Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Pequeños Productores y Trabajadores de Comercio Justo
  • Laura Sylvester — M.P.H. and M.P.P.A. candidate, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Sapna Thottathil — Senior Associate of Supply Chain Programming, School Food FOCUS
  • Shira Tiffany — Community Organizer, Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance
  • Brett Tolley — Community Organizer and Policy Advocate, Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance

Design Team

  • Anim Steel, Williams College, Harvard University, Director at Real Food Generation
  • Tim Galarneau, Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems Statewide Advisor, University of California-Santa Cruz
  • Amie Frisch, former student at San Jose State University (B.S, Environmental Studies) and current Executive Director of Veggielution Community Farm in San Jose, CA.

Contact Us

For more information or questions contact the Real Food Challenge representative in your region or the RFC Calculator Team: calculator@realfoodchallenge.org 
Real Food Challenge is a national student campaign dedicated to creating a healthy, just and sustainable food system. Our goal is to shift $1 billion in institutional food spending to 'real food.'