Real Food Challenge

Every day we serve 30,000 meals/snacks/beverages to students, staff, faculty, and visitors at more than two dozen dining locations across campus. That means we’re buying thousands of pounds of food and beverages each day to feed everyone. Students from the Real Food Challenge work with us to ensure more and more of that food is coming from local and sustainable sources. 


The Real Food Challenge began in 2014 when students began talking with University of Pittsburgh administrators and Pitt Dining by Sodexo managers about their desire to see local and sustainable food options on campus. After collecting thousands of petition signatures in support of the Real Food Challenge, in March 2015 Chancellor Patrick Gallagher signed the Real Food Challenge campus commitment committing Market Central to serve 20% “Real Food” by 2020. 


Over the years students worked with Pitt Dining managers to identify opportunities to switch conventional products to serve more Real Food products. Some of these product switches include local apples, local chicken, and organic tofu. 


Real Food is defined as food or drink that meets one of four categories: 

  1. Local & community Based
  2. Fair 
  3. Ecologically Sound 
  4. Humane 

For a product to be considered for one of these categories it must meet the criteria or certifications recognized by the Real Food Challenge national organization. The full list of that criteria as well as disqualifiers can be found here Pitt Real Food Challenge interns work closely with Pitt Dining to calculate our Real Food % by auditing our purchasing invoices to determine what percentage of the products we buy meet the Real Food Challenge criteria (the percent is a measure of dollars spent on Real Food products vs our overall food and beverage spend). 

As of the 2017/2018 school year Market Central has reached its 20% goalWith the release of the new Pitt Sustainability Plan we have our sights set on serving 25% Real Food across campus by 2025 – quadrupling the impact of the initiative.

Follow the Real Food Challenge Pitt group on Facebook and Instagram for events and updates on the campaign.