College of Liberal Arts
Social Sciences Department
BS in Anthropology and Geography
Food is an essential part of the human existence, because of both nutritional necessity and cultural relevance. Recently, food systems have shifted from their historically local scale to an industrial, global market. In light of shifting consumer consciousness and subsequent demands, there has been an ongoing effort on the part of universities across the United States to make campus food systems more sustainable and just. In 2014, the California State University enacted a system-wide goal of spending 20 percent of campus food procurement budgets on sustainable food by 2020 as per the guiding principles of the Real Food Challenge. This research sought to examine the implementation of this policy at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and qualitative research findings reveal that the campus is struggling due to a lack of ownership, oversight, transparency, and education. Nonetheless, quantitative research findings demonstrate the Cal Poly community’s interest in making campus food procurement more sustainable. Thus, the use of the Real Food Calculator is problematized within the context of large-scale food systems. Comparative case studies are used to explore alternatives and to make suggestions for improvement moving forward.