The Auburn Real Food Challenge
by Mollye Marrone, Auburn Alabama
The Auburn Real Food Challenge is an on-campus organization at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. It is composed of a group of students eager to promote the introduction of what they call “real food” into the Auburn community. The group boasts the project as ecologically beneficial, human, and a local initiative. The effort strives to reduce usage of fertilizers and pesticides, promote fair trade practices by removing the middle man, support local farmers, and eliminate water and soil waste.
The Real Food Challenge has several ongoing initiatives, including collaborating with campus dining services, building relationships with local growers, and starting a student-run garden and “real food” co-op. Dr. Charles Aldridge is a Master’s student and resident at the Auburn University Veterinary School. He recently joined the Real Food Challenge and is already reaping the benefits. “Besides enjoying the act of gardening itself,” Charley explains while tending his portion of the campus garden, “it is satisfying to put in a few hours of hard work and watch it grow. It’s like a surprise at the end of the day to see what’s ready to be picked and enjoyed.”
The group prides itself on being community-oriented, which Dr. Aldridge considers an appealing aspect of the operation. “It gives you a sense of togetherness to know you’re helping reduce consumer demand” he continues. “I think it’s important for everyone to be a part of it, especially children. It’s good for them to know where their food comes from and that it’s not just given to them; that someone has to work to produce it. Knowing how to be self-sustainable in any capacity applies to so many aspects of life, especially food, which is essential to our survival.”
Although the group is still fairly young, the Auburn Real Food Challenge continues to inspire people of all ages and with varying interests to promote such a rewarding endeavor. For students, the project has become much more than an extra-curricular activity. Not only is it essential to the well-being of the community, it provides the Auburn family with an even greater sense of solidarity and belonging.