Organic Consumers Association

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"Labeling It Ourselves": With Real Food Calculator, Students Take Prop 37 into Their Own Hands

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our California News page.

As the defeat of Prop 37 is mourned in California and throughout the food movement, students are actually enacting it, continuing the hard work for food chain transparency that they started well before the Prop 37 battle entered the mainstream.

For 4 years, from coast to coast, students have created, piloted, and refined the Real Food Calculator, the most meticulous assessment tool for food procurement available. The qualifications of 'real food' are stringent and precise, utilizing strong third-party certifications and going the extra step in verifying source agricultural and labor practices. GMOs are outright prohibited from counting under any of the Calculator's four categories: community-based, fair, humane, and ecologically-sound. The Calculator's criteria actually enact Prop 37 on an institutional basis - with it, students are literally taking Prop 37 into their own hands.

The Real Food Calculator evaluates each food item purchased along with its source, producing a percentage indicating the proportion of the school's food budget dedicated to real food. Most importantly, the Calculator is conducted by students - the consumers.

This is labelling-it-yourself on a banner-drop scale, as students not only research and track multi-million-dollar budgets, but also engage with the results and challenge their institutions to commit to and publicize measurable goals for improvement and policies for more just and sustainable purchasing.

Carleton College senior Lindsay Guthrie, a leader of the Real Food Calculator Working Group, feels strongly about the experience students gain by conducting the Calculator, noting that "the knowledge and the relationships they build make them uniquely prepared to be food leaders who can articulate the complex dynamics of food purchasing. It's about more than auditing the industry -- as Prop 37 essentially would have done -- it's about positioning food advocates within the system and taking it back."

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