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Following extensive debate, the ASUW Student Senate passed a new bill outlining the specific goals of the Husky Real Food Challenge (HRFC) Tuesday, Jan. 30, officially revamping a student effort to promote sustainable and humane food that first started in 2015.

HRFC is an RSO on campus that represents the national Real Food Challenge (RFC), a movement that advocates for university campuses across the nation to purchase “Real Food,” which the RFC defines as “local, fair, sustainable, and humane.”

This is not the first time UW students are participating in the challenge. According to the new senate resolution, only 16 percent of the food the UW purchased in 2013 counted as real food based on the real food calculator used by the national RFC.  

In response to those results, the Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS) passed a resolution in support of the UW signing the real food campus commitment in 2015 to dedicate 25 percent of food purchases to Real Food by 2020. The resolution was then forwarded to the UW administration.

According to Clara Coyote, UW senator and member of Huskies for Food Justice, a review board was assembled within the UW bureaucracy to consider the commitment, but the response given to the students was unfavorable.

“They basically said ‘we’re not gonna sign this commitment, but we’re UW, we’re committed to sustainability.’ That’s not good enough,” she said. “We said we wanted it [in 2015], and we still want it [now].”

This new ASUW senate resolution is continuing the legacy of GPSS by explicitly stating the student body’s support of the challenge. It also outlines specific differences between the national RFC, and the UW HRFC; some of which were hotly contested among senators before the bill finally passed with 42 votes.

One of the clauses in the resolution states that the ASUW is “concerned about the scientific soundness of disqualifying GMO foods and Sodium Nitrite as … an additive.”

According to the RFC’s Real Food Guide, products made with genetically modified organisms (GMO) cannot count as real food, raising concerns from some senators. Although GMOs have been highly scrutinized in the past, they are now known to not cause inherently harmful effects in foods that contain them.

During debate, senator Coyote defended the disqualification of GMOs by explaining their impact from a food justice perspective.

“It’s regarding the fact that three major companies are controlling much of the genetically modified food in this country,” she said. “It’s really stifling to mid-sized farms who can’t afford to pay for the licenses … that go along with buying the seeds and rights to grow.”

If UW administration approves the resolution and signs the Real Food commitment, a Food Systems Working Group will be assembled to assist UW Housing and Food Services in formulating a multi-year action plan, and to look for specific recommendations for dining purchases that will fit the Real Food criteria.

The ASUW Student Senate meets every Tuesday from 5-7:05 p.m. in Smith 120.

Reach senate reporter Niva Ashkenazi at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @niva_ashkenazi

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