Food Service Staff and the Real Food Challenge




Support from Food Service Staff and Administration is necessary to make the

Real Food Challenge a success.


Below is an outline of the roles that Food Service Staff will play during the Real Food Challenge Calculator process:



Host an Introductory Meeting (1 hour)

Designate an Institutional Official

Create an online profile (10 minutes)

Complete the Campus Food Baseline Survey (1-2 hours)

Approve the Assessment Plan (10 minutes)

Provide Purchasing Invoices

Request Feedback


1. Host an introductory meeting: (approximately 1 hour) The purpose of this meeting is to (1) review the Real Food Challenge project, and (2) schedule an agenda to complete the Campus Food Baseline Survey.



2. Designate the Institutional Official (IO): This is someone who can grant the students access to invoices, (typically a food service manager or staff person).  Once a food service staff member has been designated as the IO, this person will be the main contact/liaison between the students and Meal Exchange National Coordinator and food services staff.



3. Create an online profile: (approximately 10 minutes) Once the RFC student coordinators have created an online account with the Real Food Calculator, the IO can register as an Official on the Real Food Calculator website.  At this time, the Real Food Challenge Coordinator will give approval (thereby granting the IO special privileges to see Real Food Calculator data and results).


***Please note - use of the Real Food Calculator website requires consent to the Real Food Challenge Terms of Use.  Please read and understand the Terms of Use before continuing further.


To sign up, create an individual profile, find and click on your institutional profile, and click "affiliate" next to the institution's name to connect your account with the institutional profile account.



4. Complete the Campus Food Baseline Survey: (approximately 1-2 hours) Before students begin the calculator process, they must complete the Campus Food Baseline Survey.  The purpose of this survey is for students to understand how their campus food services operate.  Questions touch on topics including number of staff, overall  budget, and sustainability policies.


Although students will be able to answer most questions on their own, they will need assistance from Food Service Staff for difficult questions, which should take no more than 1-2 hours food service staff time.


***The information collected in the Campus Food Baseline Survey will be treated as confidential.



5. Approve the Assessment Plan: (approximately 10 minutes) After the Campus Food Baseline Survey is complete, students will write an assessment plan to guide their work. After the Meal Exchange National coordinator approves the assessment plan, the IO must also approve the plan by logging in to the Institutional Profile, opening the assessment plan for the relevant year, and clicking "approve" at the top of the screen.



6. Provide Purchasing Invoices: Providing access to purchasing invoices is perhaps the most important role that the Institutional Official can play.  Over the next 5-14 weeks, students must have access to invoices in order to complete the Real Food Calculator.  The IO must assemble the relevant invoices (typically from a period of two months - the students will let you know their parameters), and develop a strategy to share the information.  If possible, digital purchasing records (in the form of velocity reports from vendors, outputs from purchasing management software, or other digital record keeping mechanisms) are preferred, but paper copies are accepted.  Some food service administrators give copies of the invoices to the students, while others ask that students view the invoices under supervision within specific office hours.  Some dining services also ask students to sign a confidentiality agreement.


 In order for students to complete the Real Food Calculator, Institutional Officials must share invoice information including, but not limited to:


- An itemized record of each food product, including:

                         --Name of product and/or product number

                         --Source of product

                         --Brand name of product and/or Universal Product Code

                         --Any certifications (such as organic, fair trade)

                         --Contact information for vendors

                         --Dollar amount spent (this information is not connected to amounts of product)


***Notwithstanding Calculator Results and the total dollar amount spent on food purchases, all confidential information will be treated as confidential and will not be shared except by written permission of the discloser.



7. Request Feedback: There are many opportunities and next steps with the Real Food Challenge, and some of the next steps are up to you!  If you require a final report or presentation from students, please let them know and ensure that they include it in their project plan.


If you have any questions, concerns, or thoughts, please contact the Meal Exchange Coordinator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . It is her role to support you through this process, and help you to navigate any obstacles that may arise.

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