Climate change is accelerating, and nearly ¼ of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from food production. But, not all food production is created equal. Real food that’s grown locally using climate-friendly practices can not only limit the negative impacts of food production but can help regenerate the environment. Eat REAL Certification is a change management program that encourages schools to add more plant-based options to their menus, source local and in-season ingredients, implement farm-to-school programming, practice responsible waste management, and introduce climate-friendly food education in the cafeteria. By helping schools serve food that is both nutritious and climate-friendly, we can protect our children’s health and begin healing our planet.
Here’s how Eat REAL standards work to regenerate our planet by promoting climate-friendly food choices.
Our program encourages schools to source sustainable produce and incorporate seasonal ingredients in their menus. Small and midsize organic and regenerative farms work with the environment to build diverse ecosystems and healthy soil that can store excess CO2 that would otherwise be released into our atmosphere. Using local and in-season ingredients reduces emissions associated with food packaging, shipping, and storage.
Our animal welfare and sustainability standards help schools source meat-based ingredients that maximize animal welfare and minimize environmental impact. Like climate-friendly produce farms, regenerative livestock production from organic and free-range operations reduces emissions and builds healthy land that sequesters carbon. These same farms adhere to animal welfare standards that prohibit the use of antibiotics and accommodate the natural behavior of the animal with access to the outdoors, room to roam, fresh air, and clean water.
In addition to how food is grown, food waste is a massive problem for the environment – 30-40% of the food supply in the US is thrown away. Eat REAL helps schools find ways to reduce the amount of food wasted by identifying key food reduction strategies such as having “share tables”, allowing “offer vs serve”, and serving condiments and milk in bulk. Our program also encourages active recycling and the use of reusable and compostable food service trays to further reduce waste.
In addition to providing practical guidance on sourcing climate-friendly ingredients and reducing waste, our program encourages practices that support foodservice workers and students in making healthy decisions. We support schools to establish or improve their farm-to-school programs, provide nutrition and culinary education, promote menu transparency, and implement overarching wellness policies.
Eat REAL’s work teaches kids to learn to love real food and that their choices can have a significant impact on healing our planet. Teaching this next generation how to reverse climate change through their food choices is one of the most important ways we can create a healthier future.