Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Food Systems

First Advisor

David Conner

Second Advisor

Amy Trubek


The Real Food Challenge (RFC) is a national student movement that is trying to harness student power to shift $1 billion'roughly 20% of college and university food budgets across the country towards local, ecologically sound, fair, and humane food sources, what they call "real" food, by 2020. The University of Vermont (UVM) was the fifth university in the country to sign the Real Food Campus Commitment, pledging to shift at least 20% of its own food budget towards "real" food by 2020. The purpose of this thesis is to evaluate the implementation of the Real Food Campus Commitment at UVM.

In order to examine the demand for "real" food on the UVM campus I analyzed a survey of 904 undergraduate students that used contingent valuation to evaluate students' willingness-to-pay (WTP) for the "real" food attributes. I found that a majority of students are willing to pay a positive premium for "real" food, but that the average premium is quite small. Furthermore, I found that student characteristics and attitudes significantly influence WTP. Specifically, gender, residency, college, and attitudes about price and origin of food are significant predictors of WTP.

To evaluate the potential of the RFC to significantly transform the food system I analyzed the activities and components of the RFC using the framework of food democracy. In addition to analyzing the activities and components of the RFC as a national movement, I analyzed the movement as it is being realized on the ground at UVM. My analysis reveals that the RFC has the potential to transform the food system because it promotes all five dimensions of food democracy as both a national movement and as realized on the ground at one university.

Both of my analyses suggest that the RFC has significant potential to transform the food system at UVM, but that food systems education for the greater student body will crucial to see that potential fulfilled. This thesis can contribute to the success of the Real Food movement at UVM by identifying areas of weakness and opportunities for improvement in terms of increasing student preference for "real" food and promoting food democracy. Moreover, this thesis may be useful for national RFC staff and other campuses that are implementing the RFC, as it demonstrates how the RFC is being played out on the ground at an institution that is at the forefront of the movement.



Number of Pages

149 p.