President Harrison Wills proposes healthy food alternatives for SMC

Associated Students President Harrison Wills leads a group of concerned students and legislators set on bringing greener food to Santa Monica College by changing the way SMC works with its vendors. According to SMC’s policies for arranging food options on campus, a Request For Proposal (RFP) is a document that solicits services or products and defines vendor requirements.

Wills, looking to gain support for his vision, is submitting a petition to the Board of Trustees for a new RFP.

“We’re trying to create a culture of critical thinking, sustainability, and conscious consumption, thrift, and resourcefulness,” explained Wills.  “You see that in our programs, like the Big Blue Bus, the carpool program, double-sided printing, and the organic garden – so now we’re looking at our food.”

According to the current RFP from 2008, the SMC cafeteria must serve at least 50 percent organic produce and meat, which must be free of antibiotics and hormones.

According to Wills, there is currently no position to make sure that vendors at SMC use organic food.

A solution to this,  Wills said, would be to create additional job descriptions in the bylaws for the student government’s director of sustainability and the director of sustainability for the college.

These additional responsibilities would include monitoring the food brought in by vendors.

“By creating this position in the criteria, we're driving it home that this is something that is valued and has to be handled,” Wills said.

Kendall Blum, Commissioner of Legislative affairs to the A.S. president, has been collecting signatures for a petition to show that the student body is behind sustainable food changes.

“It’s really hard to find food at this school,” said Blum. “That shouldn’t be the case. There shouldn’t be people who are going to class hungry because they aren’t comfortable supporting the lack of sustainable principles being practiced in the cafeteria.”

SMC’s sustainability efforts have long been a priority, but Wills explains that the college can’t truly be green without taking a closer look at the food sold to students on campus.

“There's no way that we can talk about sustainability on campus, have all these high sustainable values in our mission statement, without addressing the food we eat,” Wills said . “It's really hypocritical, and we have to address that. Otherwise, we should stop talking about it.”

If the proposal is approved, the SMC cafeteria will serve 100 percent organic food and actively practice sustainability - in purchasing produce through local farms, using free-range meat with no artificial hormones, and instituting an all-vegetarian day in the cafeteria, akin to “Meatless Mondays."

The new RFP proposal comes with certain financial affects, however, such as an increase of food prices in the cafeteria.

Daniel Shindel, an SMC student, is not overly concerned by the increased prices that may result from changes to the RFPs. “I think I would appreciate healthier food on campus, giving me options to eat better,” Shindel said.

Not all students agree with the idea of a 100-percent organic cafeteria at SMC. “I don’t think it’s a good idea, there is a very small percentage of the population who are currently supporting organic food. Even though it’s trending and becoming more popular, it will be more expensive,” said SMC student Natalie Waldon.

Organic food is more expensive because consumers are not only paying for the actual food, but also for the process of how that food is being produced. Producers of organic foods often practice fair trade, which is a system to promote equality and sustainability in the marketplace.

“I would still buy food from the cafeteria, provided the food was good and reasonably priced. I wouldn’t buy it just because it was organic,” said Darlieshia Verner, an employee at SMC’s Counseling complex.

Wills argues that even though students will spend more money on green campus cafeteria food, it will be beneficial in the long run.

“It's cheaper to get a 99-cent hamburger, but when you get diabetes and high blood pressure and obesity, plus the environmental degradation, it's actually not cheaper,” Wills said.

“You’re always going to have some people who would prefer the current or older way. I’m sure there were people who were upset when Carl’s Jr. left,” said Wills who recognizes the resistance to change but still believes in moving toward a healthier future.

The new RFP will be sent for approval within the Fall 2011 school semester. If approved, campus eateries such as Eat Street and Campus Kitchen won’t have to abide by the new guidelines until their five-year contracts run out.