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Institutionalizing ‘Real Food’

Fish tacos made with sustainably sourced salmon and local vegetables were one of the dishes offered at the Big Red Eats Green event, raising awareness about the Real Food Challenge (Kayte Young/WFIU)

There are four broad categories of real food: ecologically sound, local, humane and fair...

This week we take a look at what it means for a large institutional food system to commit to offering ‘Real Food.’ Indiana University Dining Services is taking up the Real Food Challenge, with a goal of 25% Real Food, campus-wide, by 2025. Real Food is classified as ecologically sound, fair, humane or local. Earth Eats talks to stakeholders at a campus event.

And Jackie Bea Howard is back, to unroll the cabbage roll, and top it with a bright romesco sauce.


When it comes to green living, sustainable living, we talk a lot about individual choices. While it certainly feels good to buy directly from a local farmer or to support my local co-op, real change in our food systems needs to happen at a larger scale than my personal household.

The scale of a major state university might be a good place to start.

Indiana University Here in Bloomington Indiana is engaging in the Real Food Challenge. I attended an event on campus in the fall to learn more about it.

In this episode, we share conversations with Steven Lalevich, Registered Dietitian for Healthy IU, Carl Ipsen, IU History Professor and Director of the IU Food Institute, and Rahul Shrivastav, Director of IU Dining. They lay out the basic components of the Real Food Challenge, and some of the real challenges they face in meeting the criteria of local, sustainable, humane and fair, for the food sourcing at the scale of a major university.

And we speak with local farmers Dave Fischer and Teresa Birtles about scaling up their farm production to meet the demands of institutional dining.


The Earth Eats’ theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey.

Stories On This Episode

Jackie Bea's Unrolled Cabbage Rolls

Enjoy the comfort and the flavors of cabbage rolls without all the fuss. Jackie Bea's version includes a roasted red pepper sauce with almonds.

Mega-Mergers And Consolidated Data: New Report Lists Roadblocks To Sustainable Ag

Seventy percent of the global agrochemical industry is now in the hands of only three companies.

Report Shows Schools Are Serving More Breakfasts

An annual report on school breakfasts shows steadily increasing participation rates as many schools begin serving meals to all students free of charge.

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