ZC Intern Update #4: Natalie Turner-Wyatt '19 Tackles Real Food Challenges

Natalie passes the plate

As one can imagine, Williams College spends a large amount of money each year on food purchases. At roughly $7,150  per student per year, approximately $15,000,000 annually goes into feeding the campus via Dining Services, a lofty undertaking by any stretch of the imagination. And since Dining Services are an extension of the Williams community, they are also committed to the College’s efforts to be more sustainable, meaning that where the college purchases its food, can have a real impact on supporting sustainable efforts in the food and distributing industry. That’s where Real Food Intern Natalie Turner-Wyatt ‘19 comes in.

Real Food is organic, local, and has no GMO’s present. Natalie’s role is to use the Real Food Calculator, a tool to analyze the sustainability of food products based on various factors, to analyze how much of the College’s food purchases match the criteria for real food. To do so, Natalie was provided with just over two months worth of dining service purchases as a sample size, and is using it to determine what percentage of Williams’ food qualifies as “Real Food”.

Greenhouse gases produced by animals bred for food

“Last year,15% of the purchased food qualified as Real Food, and Dining Services has stated that they wish to be at 20% Real Food by 2020,” explains Natalie, who has spent the last several weeks analyzing invoices and spreadsheets documenting food purchases, and color coding which purchases meet the Real Food criteria. “My hope is that by the end of the summer, I can make recommendations to dining services about potential places for impactful shifts in purchasing to help us reach that 20% goal.”

Real food, sourced from Caretaker Farms, Cricket Creek, and Wild Oats

Dining Services are serious about reaching that goal, and this desire was clearly expressed when they joined the Zilkha interns for our weekly lunch two weeks ago. At that lunch, Chef Mark Thompson talked at length about working with local farms (like Peace Valley Farm, Northeast Family Farms, and more ) as a way to bring more sustainable eats to Williams. Dining Service’s goal is tied to the College’s other goals for sustainability in 2020: carbon neutrality and new building standards. All of these goals are tied into a desire to integrate a positive relationship with the planet into every level of our community, and food is the basis of community gathering. “Real food is not only more sustainable, it’s healthier,” says Natalie. “Food can open everything up in terms of access, health, and sustainability, and that’s why it’s so important”.