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, University of Massachusetts Amherst '17

Success & Impact

To date, over 1,000 student researchers have researched over 570,000 unique food products, amounting to nearly $400,000,000.00 in campus dining purchases. Over 250 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 now regularly sources 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 fishermen 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) and Health Care Without Harm (focused on hospitals). 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 Standards 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.

Our Team

Real Food Standards Council

The Real Food Standards 2.0 and 2.1 were developed by a dedicated team of student leaders and alumni. We would like to recognize the efforts of the individuals below for their work developing Standards 2.0, 2.1, or both.

Abbie Abramovich Western Washington University ‘16
Lori Boegershausen Florida Gulf Coast University ‘16, Ohio University ‘19
Emma Brewster
Real Food Challenge
Alana Chriest University of Alaska Anchorage ‘13, University of Vermont ‘17
Keo Corak
Macalester College ‘15, University of Wisconsin-Madison ‘18
Dominique Fahmy
Real Food Challenge
Zach Fleig The Evergreen State College ‘15
Anna Hankins University of Massachusetts-Amherst ‘16
Claire Hannapel University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill ‘17
Evelina Knodel University of Minnesota-Twin Cities ‘16
Fiona Mattson University of California-Davis ‘15
Abby McIntosh Indiana University-Bloomington ‘17
Hannah Silverfine Clark University ‘16
Hannah Weinronk Real Food Challenge

View a list of past members


We wish to thank our diverse, skilled, and generous team of advisors for their support developing the Real Food Standards 2.0 and 2.1. These people shared key insights throughout the process, often around tough questions, that shaped the Real Food Standards.

Hillary Bisnett National Procurement Director, Health Care Without Harm
Kitty Bolte
Pollinator Habitat Specialist, The Xerces Society
Andrew deCoriolis
Director of Strategic Programs & Engagement, Farm Forward
Alexa Delwiche
Executive Director, The Center for Good Food Purchasing
Julianna Fischer
Community Organizer, Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance
Claire Fitch
Director of Outreach, Farm Forward
Rosalinda Guillen
Executive Director, Community to Community Development
Kari Hamerschlag
Senior Program Manager, Friends of the Earth
Denis Hayes
Chair, Earth Day Network
Angela Huffman
Director of Communications and Research, Organization for Competitive Markets
Erika Inwald
National Coordinator, Domestic Fair Trade Association
Kerstin Lindgren
Campaign Director (formerly), Fair World Project
Joann Lo
Co-Director, Food Chain Workers Alliance
Colleen McKinney
Associate Director, Center for Good Food Purchasing
Suzanne McMillan
Content Director for Farm Animal Welfare Campaign, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
Lucy Norris
Director of Regional Food Systems (formerly), Ag Innovations
Chris Pelton
STARS Program Manager, Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)
Urvashi Rangan
Executive Director (formerly), Food Safety and Sustainability Center, Consumer Reports
Alison Streacker
Communications Manager, 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., University of Massachusetts Amherst
Sapna Thottathil
Senior Associate of Supply Chain Programming (formerly), School Food FOCUS
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, email us at 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.'