Freshman Daniel Woldorff, a member of the student group Food for Thought, works to promote ethical food consumption at Duke. Woldorff attended the national Real Food Challenge conference in Baltimore last weekend to discuss nationwide efforts to encourage food sustainability and is in discussions with Duke’s dining provider, Bon Appetit Management Company, to improve the way Duke’s food is produced. The Chronicle’s Elizabeth Djinis spoke with Woldorff about the ethical food movement on campus, how Duke adds up and what foods to watch out for in the dining halls.
The Chronicle: Why did you choose to focus on ethical food consumption and what is your goal in joining the student group Food for Thought?
Daniel Woldorff: Our goal in Food for Thought is to make the food system more ecologically sustainable, more fair, more humane. [This cause] is really important because food is the intersection of so many different aspects of our lives: social justice, culture, history, nutrition. It involves bioengineering, it involves economics—all of these different parts of our lives.
There are so many great things that come from food, from bringing people together to getting us energy everyday, but it also is part of a system that creates slavery in southwest Florida and creates a huge amount of pollution of our great rivers. We are responsible for that—we’re the ones buying it, and we’re the ones supporting the system, so we’re trying to find a way to act more ethically by maximizing our benefit and minimizing our impact.
TC: How would you describe Food for Thought?
DW: Food for Thought is a group of students that are working to improve sustainability of Duke’s purchasing, and shift dollars from less ethical purchases to more ethical ones. We are one of many groups across the nation doing the same thing. We’re part of the national Real Food Challenge, and so we’re all working with a tool called the Real Food Calculator, which we use to calculate the percentage of real food from our campus vendors. We go through the actual invoices of vendors and categorize each item by ecologically sustainable, humane, fair, etc.
TC: Last weekend, you attend a conference about the issue of ethical consumption to meet with like-minded youth. How did that go?
DW: Several of us went to a conference hosted by Real Food Challenge where we got to meet all the other people across the country who are working on these projects. We shared information about our successes and challenges, went through some training and workshops, really put ourselves in a grander context, really understood that we are doing this as a movement across the entire nation.
TC: How well do you think Duke currently promotes ethical food consumption?
DW: Duke contracts with a food service provider, Bon Appetit, and even before [Food for Thought] was ever involved, Bon Appetit has been a leader in sustainable food in the food service industry. They are doing a lot of different practices that students don’t know about, so what we’re trying to do is work with them, see what their goals are and what our goals are and see where we can work together and improve the system as a whole.
TC: How do you eat ethically at Duke?
DW: Try to balance both health and sustainability. I look for the least processed, freshest foods and try to get ones with as little meat as possible, typically completely vegetarian. I would avoid the things like eggs and pizza, I try to avoid the fruits that are most likely not from around here, definitely not seasonal, such as pineapples—you can’t grow those here.