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Real Food Challenge Kicked Off in Iowa

October 23, 2008

Ames, IA – Whether it's obesity, human rights abuses, or carbon dioxide emitted by agriculture, the "Real Food Challenge" was created to help fix problems with the nation's food system, using the power of college students.

The Challenge is officially underway now on university campuses statewide. Midwest coordinator Sue Deblieck says the idea is to get colleges to use their financial leverage to change what types of food are grown, as well as how they are grown.

"Students are setting up student gardens; they are working with their dining services to get fair trade and local products into their dining services."

DeBlieck says universities spend $4 billion annually on food, so they have a lot of influence. She says the lessons the students are learning about the food system will have long-lasting effects.

"When they get out of the university and start buying their own food, they are making choices that are good for our communities, good for producers, good for the earth, and good for themselves."

As examples of college-based activities, DeBlieck says Coe College just created a student farm to sell products to its foodservice system. Drake University has hosted a Farmers' Market to raise awareness of locally-grown products. Other schools - including Luther College, Grinnell College, the University of Northern of Iowa and Iowa State University -have events planned as well. Find out more about them online, at

Dick Layman/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - IA