The Real Food Challenge leans on student participation

A noble cause faces off against student apathy

The Real Food Challenge aims to increase awareness about what constitutes “real” food and why it matters — but does the student body care enough to listen?

   The Real Food Challenge, contrary to what some might expect, does not aim to distinguish between real and imaginary food. It seeks to spread awareness about how sustainably produced food is harvested and distributed, all the way from the farmer to the dinner plate. Their goal is to incite nationwide change in how food is perceived and valued, to shift spending from industrial farms and processed food to organic and locally grown dining options.

The main challenge will be capturing enough interest to make any meaningful systematic change — no small feat considering how busy the average student is, and how little some students may think about the ethics involved in what they eat. Their minds are constantly spinning and churning under the dual load of maintaining a healthy academic and personal life, their thoughts circling around interpersonal issues or a particularly challenging class.

SGA and the Real Food Challenge have a difficult task ahead of them — motivating the students to attend their event and learn about an issue they might not care about in the first place. UMBC students are famously detached from the goings-on of their campus, with only 26% reporting that they felt there was a sense of community in a poll conducted by the Student Life Task Force.

Ikram Hafiz, a senior biology major, said, “I would gladly attend just to be informed, as I haven’t heard anything that argues that organic food is better without making simplistic arguments… I haven’t really heard a valid argument yet. That said, I can’t make it because of my class schedule that day, and I have a big exam to study for anyways.”

His response is typical of the average overloaded UMBC student. The Real Food Challenge will have to battle not only against indifference, but against the time demands placed on the schedules of students who otherwise would be interested to learn about their message. They’ve scheduled the session to run from 11 a.m.–2 p.m., a time when students are either rushing to and from class or hustling to get food before the lines get crazy.

In contrast, Kiran Prabhakar, another senior biology major said, “Where my food comes from is important to me. I can probably make it to the information session, as I’d definitely prefer locally grown food.”

Prabhakar is the exact kind of student that the Real Food Challenge advocates will have to count on, as he has both the passion and curiosity needed to drive him to their table out on the Breezeway. Their message is important, and as students we can only hope that the undergraduate population will take notice.